Athletic Department sees drastic changes on horizion

Andy York

The athletic department is going through some drastic chances over the next few weeks and months, and for some people in the department, it’s about time. In the coming months Lawrence will be hiring a new full time athletic director, filling the Buchanan Kiewit Rec Center with new fitness equipment, and shuffling coaches around in a move to maximize the time spent with athletes, and maximize the impact of the athletic department budget.
President Jill Beck has been a major proponent of the changes that have been seen, and will be seen, in the athletic department. “We want to take steps that are helpful to the department, and the entire campus community. There is one thing I need to be clear of: I feel like this is the right step for this University.”
With the hiring of a new full-time athletic director, one large void in the athletic department has been filled. Current athletic director and softball coach Kim Tatro agrees: “The way that Division III sports have evolved, and with new NCAA compliance guidelines, it’s difficult to keep up with everything if you are coaching a team as well. The department has wanted a full time athletic director for the last ten years, this is not a new topic for us, but the administration sees it as one.”
Beck agrees with Tatro. “It’s an opportunity that we seized to bring in a full-time employee. We want to make athletics a priority in campus planning. The recommendation was made by the department that this was something they wanted, and this being my first year here, I wanted to do something in support of athletics. It’s a big positive step towards the future.”
Tharp also sees it as a step towards the future: “The new athletic director will be someone to lead us in a new direction, with new ideas.”
The process for hiring the new athletic director is underway. According to Tharp and Tatro, an add is out in the trade journal used by NCAA executives, and applications are starting to come in. The cutoff deadline for applications is Feb. 18, and the selection committee will review them all on an individual basis. The committee is made up of two students, Sara Compas and Alison Lauber, Tatro, Tharp, and four professors – Joy Jordan, Stewart Purkey, David Hall, and Mary Blackwell. This committee will then ideally whittle down the applicants to three or four candidates who will then be brought in for on-campus interviews. Optimistically, the new athletic director will be hired by April. No current Lawrence athletic department staff member is applying for the position.
Once the new athletic director is hired, he or she will be in charge of several things, one of which will be a review of the athletic department’s budget. According to Beck, “The primary goal is to make sure that the budget is performing to a maximum effect. I’ll look to the new athletic director to look at it, and then make recommendations to me for changes.”
Beck sees this as one aspect of a three-point plan she sees for athletics at Lawrence. She has and will continue to take three steps this year in improving Lawrence athletics.
“The first step is with the end of Dave Brown’s very dedicated tenure at Lawrence, we needed to hire a new football coach. We made a significant effort to get a high quality person, and I think Coach Howard will make a fine addition to the athletic department.
The second step was to work with LUCC and private donors to get over $80,000 worth of new equipment for the rec center. It was a long overdue change, and this will benefit all students as well. It is in support of athletics and campus welfare,” said Beck.
The new equipment will replace and upgrade everything that is in the Rec Center currently. According to Rec Center Director Kurt Kirner, the equipment should be in place by April. Also if funding comes through, by next fall there may be a television set up in the workout facilities, a service students normally see only at the YMCA.
The third step in Beck’s athletic plan is the hiring of the new athletic director.
Before the hiring of the athletic director, some athletic department changes have already been made. There have been several coaching rearrangements in the athletic department. Most notably, Matt Kehrein has moved from being the head track and field coach to being one of Coach Howard’s top assistants on the gridiron. Moira Ruhly, who was the women’s head soccer coach, took over the track and field duties, and is now the cross-country coach as well. Blake Johnson, the men’s soccer coach, will take over the women’s team reins as well, and will coach both teams.
When Tatro was asked if this was for budgetary reasons, she denied it. “These changes would have happened anyways. We wanted to utilize our personnel the best we can. Restructuring gives cross-country a full time coach in Moira, and she has a very strong background in running. With coach Kehrein moving to football, it gets us closer to what many other schools are doing. He will take on a bigger role, most other schools have six fulltime football coaches, and we have two.”
The one question left unanswered is who will be coaching volleyball next fall. Tatro said that they are looking for a new coach, and noted that the girls on the team have done a great job in taking recruitment into their own hands.
The Lawrentian will keep a watchful eye over the next term and a half on the athletic department, and once a new athletic director is hired, look for a full profile.