There’s a new man in charge — well, sort of. On Wednesday, Chancellor Kim Wilcox named Jim Wooldridge as UC Riverside’s director of intercollegiate athletics. Wooldridge served as the men’s basketball head coach for six years before stepping down to accept the position of interim athletic director in July. He now can drop the interim tag as he fills the athletic department’s most important position.

It’s been a long road for Wooldridge, whose coaching career has spanned over four decades, but the Oklahoma native is more than ready for the challenge.

“I am very excited, humbled to have this opportunity,” Wooldridge stated in an interview with the Highlander. “So energetic about what I want to accomplish for the department and what we can do to move our programs in a real positive direction.”

“I’m pleased to name Jim Wooldridge as our new athletics director,” said Wilcox in an official statement. “Jim has dedicated his professional life to the attainment of successful outcomes for student-athletes. In his more than six years at UC Riverside, first as a coach, and then as interim AD, he has taken a leadership role in the advancement of intercollegiate athletics, while promoting integrity, collective achievement and academic support across all sports. His close relationships on campus and in our region will be an asset as our athletics department moves forward.”

The university has struggled in recent years to string together consistency in its 17 sports. Wooldridge plans to focus his time on trying to build closer ties with the community and student body as well as raising money for the athletics department.

“We’ve got to continue to work on improving the student athlete’s experience here on our campus. That’s the number one. We want to provide them with the necessary support so they can be successful,” he stated. “We can improve in all areas: baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball, you name it. In Division I athletics, it’s a day-to-day challenge … to help provide student athletes, coaches, programs with the best facilities.”

Wooldridge knows the path certainly won’t be easy, but with southern charm and intuitive sports knowledge, he hopes to elevate UCR to the upper echelon of the Big West conference.