A year ago, the Long Beach State athletic department was reeling after the sudden departure of athletic director Andy Fee.
On Monday, the Bobby Smitheran era begins as he officially takes over the athletic director duties at LBSU.
Smitheran was recently introduced at a press conference on campus, where he explained why he left his post at San Diego State as executive associate athletics director for student-athlete academic support services.
“What I knew going into this (interview) process was that Beach athletics is a nationally recognized brand built on a rich tradition of athletic excellence, names synonymous with the very best in their sport and a fan base that’s proud to call Long Beach home,” Smitheran told a large group of LBSU staff and supports at Walter Pyramid. “Upon doing a deeper dive, it’s evident to me that there exists a standard of excellence with a desire by the University administration, the athletic department and certainly the coaching staff to achieve greater heights.”
Smitheran has been working with university athletics for more than two decades. He has also served as director of compliance, director of football operations, and student-athlete services coordinator at SDSU. Before that he worked as assistant athletics director for compliance and student support and director of compliance at UC Irvine, and compliance coordinator at the University of North Texas.
Smitheran is a Riverside native, but has family ties living in the Long Beach area. The Smitheran family came here in 1917, and his father, Jack, who is a member of the Long Beach Baseball Hall Of Fame, the Long Beach Century Club Hall Of Fame and the Wilson High School Hall Of Fame.
“Long Beach was a city I came to as a child to visit the grandparents and the whole family,” Smitheran said. “Especially the holidays and Fourth of July. It’s got a special place in my heart because of that. (As a kid) I thought (Long Beach) was a unique environment. We spent a lot of time in Belmont Shore and eating on Second Street. I have nothing but just great memories of family being together.”
Smitheran inherits a tough situation at LBSU where the department is erasing a $4 million deficit by adding a student fee. According to Knight-Newhouse College Athletics Database, LBSU athletics department had a total revenue of $21.43 million and total expenses were $25.8 million in 2022.
To the bigger schools in the area, that money is chump change. USC and UCLA are getting $80 million annually just as a bonus for joining the Big Ten Conference next year, for example. Even San Diego State, a university in the same California State system as LBSU, has an operating budget of $67 million.
San Diego State had great success in men’s basketball and softball this year, and when asked what it will take to get LBSU to that level, Smitheran talked about interpersonal relationships.
“As a leader, it starts with the people,” he said. “What has been accomplished at SDSU is about the people, the culture, and that’s got to be paramount to who we are. It’s how you pull all the people together.”
“In speaking to the (LBSU staff) all of those pieces are there for success, and great success, he added. “It’s going to take the community as well. That’s philanthropy, facility improvement. In this world we live in with Name Image Likeness, the transfer portal—this is not your grandfather’s college athletics anymore. We have to think forward about how we’re going to do this in a way that attracts student athletes to Long Beach State University. And then create an environment to help them strive for excellence.”