Zapolski Inducted into Pepperdine Hall of Fame


Mike Zapolski at Pepperdine University. Photo provided by Pepperdine Athletics.

The Observer sat down with Augustana athletic director, Mike Zapolski, who was inducted into the Pepperdine Hall of Fame this past Sunday.
1.) Looking back to your time at Pepperdine, what are your greatest memories?
“It would absolutely be the relationship part, just having the opportunity to work with different administrators, coaches, and student-athletes and the relationships that I developed over that 20 year period. While I worked there, I was fortunate enough to be there at a time when there was a lot of success with the sports team, so I got to witness various national championships in a couple sports.”
2.) How did your experiences at Pepperdine help you prepare for your role at Augustana?
“At Pepperdine, I started off in the public relations area as the SID, and then I morphed into administrative responsibilities for my last eight years. We had a pretty small staff, and as a result, we got to be hands-on in a lot of different areas, and I think that was outstanding preparation. At this level, you’re more of a generalist as compared to a specialist, and I think my experience at Pepperdine was very beneficial in that regard.”
3.) What does it mean to you to be inducted into the Pepperdine Hall of Fame?
“It is a bit overwhelming, to be honest. I feel very blessed and honored to be recognized at my alma mater. It was a very relationship driven experience, and I’ve continued to maintain those relationships, so it’ll be fun to go back there and interact with a lot of folks that have been important in my life.”
4.) How did you end up at Augustana?
“I originally grew up in Wheaton, Illinois, and my wife grew up in Dubuque, Iowa, so we both had very significant ties back to the Midwest. We then made a very conscientious decision that we wanted to raise our family in the Midwest, and, ultimately, I was hired as the athletic director at Anderson University, a school in central Indiana. We were there for five years, and then we wanted to look for another place where the school district was better for our kids, and this opportunity presented itself.”
5.) What was your biggest concern heading into this job?
“I think my biggest concern was what to do to make our program more competitive in terms of a facilities standpoint. When I started in 2008, I thought some of our facilities were lacking a bit, and we’ve been fortunate enough to do some positive things since I came here.”
6.) What has been your biggest challenge at Augustana?
“The biggest challenge, without question, is dealing with limited financial resources. We all have wish lists or want lists, but we don’t have the dollars to do all the things we want to do. That’s true for our competitors as well; we all have restraints on what we have to deal with. We are all very tuition dependent, but the enrollment is very ebb and flow, and that makes things a little more fluid.”
7.) What are your favorite aspects of your job?
“Without a doubt, my favorite thing is the relationship aspect of it. I am very fortunate to work with a tremendous group of coaches. And then taking that relationship aspect to the student-athletes, the mantra I use is that I want to be available, dependable, and visible. If we have a home athletic event, it’s my goal to be at as many of those as possible so I can observe the teams, the coaches, and interact with the student-athletes.”
8.) What are your greatest memories at Augustana?
“One would be some of the significant facility enhancements and improvements that have happened. Also, bringing four additional varsity program on board. And then seeing different teams succeed at a high level with conference championships and national tournaments. And last, I would say seeing us continue the tradition of producing academic all-Americans.”
9.) What are your hopes moving forward for Augustana athletics?
“Over maybe a five year period, I would like to see a brand new natatorium that is larger than what we currently have, which would allow us to have a larger number of swimming athletes on both our men’s and women’s teams and maybe add women’s water polo as a potential sport. Another goal would be to successfully renovate the strength center at the Carver Center. That space gets a tremendous amount of use, but it’s very worn. And, along those lines, I’d also like to add a full-time strength and conditioning coach to help with all of our teams.”