After serving as the chief of staff & senior associate athletics director of external relations for the past three years, Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox announced on Tuesday, Jan. 12 that Wes Mallette is moving into the Interim Director of Intercollegiate Athletics role after it was vacated by Tamica Smith Jones. In an interview with The Highlander, Mallette said, “I am very excited about this opportunity. This is a great place to be.”

Smith Jones’ vacancy is due to her new position at Kennesaw State University as the chief operating officer, but during her five year term as UCR’s athletics director, she worked with Mallette on a leadership team responsible for managing the Athletics department. Mallette stated that, “I would like to thank AD Tamica Smith Jones for her leadership and bringing me here three years ago and for the opportunity to help strengthen and lead our department. I also want to thank Chancellor Wilcox for this opportunity and trusting me to lead our department forward and I’m very thankful and grateful to our coaches, donors, staff and student-athletes who have been incredibly supportive.”

In a press release announcing Mallette’s transition into the role, Wilcox stated that Mallette’s responsibilities within his previous position have included: overseeing all external relations, communications, marketing, ticketing, media relations, fan experience and events and sport administration responsibilities for baseball. In this new role, Mallette will lead UCR Athletics on a broad range of issues impacting student-athletes on Riverside’s campus.

Mallette will have to begin his term as interim athletics director during a pandemic that has drastically changed the everyday life of student athletes and the overall functionality of collegiate sports. At the end of 2020, the men’s basketball team has had to suspend all games due to a positive coronavirus case, but Mallette assures that “We have put our student-athletes front and center and our sports medicine crew has been terrific in their efforts to get everyone back.” He also stated, “Our staff, coaches and student-athletes are following protocols and making sure we are doing things the right way. We’ve also made sure that we’ve adapted our communication protocols to keep all of our stakeholders informed in real time.” The team has since resumed playing and will face Cal State University, Bakersfield on Friday, Jan. 22.

In addition to the stress of managing an athletics department during an ongoing health crisis, Mallette now must also work with the Athletics Working Group, Wilcox and Vice Chancellor Brian Haynes to determine the future of the athletics department as a whole. He wrote in an email interview with The Highlander that for his goals for the remainder of the fiscal year, “We are working to get our teams back for spring sports, keep basketballs going, and keep operating at a high level. Our student-athletes are excelling in the classroom and we plan to stay on that trajectory. As for the department overall, we are focusing on stability, building a financially sustainable model for the future and continuing to build a strong program.”

Although Mallette is facing a hefty amount of responsibilities, he was positive throughout the interview, stating, “Our Athletics Department is on an upward trajectory and we are getting better every day.” He ended on a similarly optimistic tone, remarking, “Our coaches, staff, student-athletes and donors are incredibly passionate and committed to UCR Athletics and dedicated to ensuring the success of this program. It is an honor and a privilege to lead us forward.”