Many people, especially young people who like sports, ask me "what does a college athletic director do"? They think it's cool that you "get to go to games all the time". Believe me, that is a fun part of the job. However, keep in mind that the A.D., and his or her staff, have responsibilities and are working at all those games they attend. And, keep in mind, all of those games usually occur in the evenings, and the weekends, on top of the normal 40 hour work week. So I thought I would share my most recent weekend as a DII A.D.
It started on Thursday, May 16 with breakfast with one of our GVSU Baseball Alumni Association board members. After breakfast, I jumped in my Chevy Impala and drove 4 and ½ hours to Indianapolis for the NCAA DII Super Regionals Softball Championship. Our GVSU team was playing a best-of-three series with the #1 ranked University of Indianapolis. They played one game on Friday and two on Saturday. On Thursday night there was a coaches meeting, which there is before every NCAA Tournament and the coaches and administrators all must attend as the NCAA site rep goes over all of the administrative details of the championship.
Meanwhile, our Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations, Tim Nott, was in Springfield, MO with our GVSU baseball team as they were competing in their NCAA Regional Championship, which is a 6 team double elimination tournament. One of the things I always tell our student-athletes is that you cannot point and click your way to success. The point being to these kids who grew up in the technological age is that technology is only a tool to help you succeed, and that success comes through hard work, perseverance, integrity, etc. Having said that, today's technological tools are really handy for athletic administrators when you have multiple teams playing at once!
Our softball team won their first game on Friday. Our baseball team won their first and second games on Thursday and Friday, so they played for the winners bracket championship on Saturday at the same time the softball team was playing in their finals. UIndy won the first softball game so we had to go to the "If" game, meaning the winner-take-all game. Tim Nott and I were trading texts feverously because if our baseball team won, I would have to drive to Springfield, MO for their championship on Sunday.
The Laker Softball team came through with a huge 3-2 over UIndy to win the Super Regionals! Led by 8 outstanding seniors, this team won 2 of 3 from the #1 ranked team in the country, AT their field, and qualified for the NCAA DII Softball World Series in Salem, VA! It was the best set of 3 softball games I've ever witnessed. Two great teams evenly matched with tension and intensity throughout. Every game went down to the last inning, or rather the last out. But the Lakers prevailed thanks to a solo home run by All-American Katie Martin and a clutch RBI single by Briauna Taylor! Freshman pitcher Sara Andrasik, as well as senior Hannah Santora, provided great pitching during the weekend to send the Lakers to Salem. Meanwhile, the GVSU Baseball team beat Bellarmine 18-1 to advance to Sunday's finals, so Associate A.D. Keri Becker hustled me to the Enterprise car rental at the Indy airport so I could rent a car to drive to Missouri while she drove my car home.
I headed out for Springfield, MO at 6:06 pm, drove for 30 minutes and had to pull over to grab a Subway sandwich and purchase a new car phone charger as mine busted and my power was running out. Now properly powered, I would spend the drive calling people for a variety of reasons. I had to call my wife Terry, whose birthday was Thursday by the way (the day I left). She instructed me to pull over and get some sleep if I became tired, as she always does, but I was still pretty pumped from the softball victory! An hour later I grabbed a DQ chocolate malt in the middle of Illinois somewhere. Numerous phone calls to my staff driving through the nation's heartland were made to talk about travel plans for the softball team to Salem, VA. I also had to make sure Tim Nott had a room waiting for me when I arrived in Springfield. No satellite radio in the rental meant I had to pick up WMOX and the Cardinals game. Pretty cool driving by Busch Stadium while listening to the game. Just past St. Louis it was time for a large coffee. I realized my iPhone Mapquest app wasn't completely accurate and that I was only 200 miles from Springfield, not 300 as I thought. So another call to Tim Nott to assure him I would roll in about 11:30pm (Central time, 12:30pm per my biological clock). The Cards game ended so it was country western music the rest of the way, got checked in the hotel, and went to bed.
Got up for 8:00 am Mass at the local Catholic Church, ate a good breakfast at the hotel, and headed to the baseball game. Had to drop the rental off at the Enterprise counter first, and then rode with Tim Nott to Meador Park. Just like our softball team, if the Lakers won the first game, it would be over and we could head home. If not, we would go the "If" game and it would be winner-take-all again. Another real close, tense game in game one but Bellarmine came out ahead so we were going to game two. Tim Nott was busy working the phone with the airlines personnel to coordinate the flight home as well as grabbing our players a sandwich for between the games. It was very hot in Missouri and we also had to make sure they had plenty of water and gatorade.
In yet another terrific performance by GVSU student-athletes, the Laker Baseball team prevailed in the second game to earn a trip to the NCAA DII Baseball World Series in Cary, NC! Senior pitcher Anthony Campanella showed some great senior leadership by coming back on only two days rest with a gutty 8 innings to keep the Lakers in the game. Jamie Potts, GVSU two-sport athlete who plays tight end for the Laker football team, delivered a clutch two out hit to drive in the go ahead runs, senior Chris Rudenga added another RBI, and GVSU's and the NCAA's all-time saves leader, Brad Zambron, came in to close out the 6-3 victory.
Following the game and celebration, the team showered up, grabbed Chipotle for the bus ride to the airport, and we quickly went through security to board our flight and get out of there before a gigantic storm rolled in (you probably heard about it watching the weather channel, we saw it and believe me, it was a big one!). I'm typing this on the flight back. On Monday, our staff will be busy making travel arrangements for both teams, fielding NCAA conference calls for both teams, and trying to re-group. It is a big championship week for the Lakers! Associate Athletic Director Walter Moore will be traveling with the Laker Men's and Women's Track teams to their national outdoor championships in Pueblo, CO, Keri Becker will be traveling with the Laker Softball team to Salem, VA, and Associate A.D.'s Doug Lipinski and Tim Nott will be going with the Laker Baseball team to Cary, NC. As Athletic Director, I have to drive up to Gaylord, MI for GLIAC meetings Tuesday and Wednesday, fly out early Thursday morning for our softball team's first game in Salem, and then will be driving back and forth between Salem and Cary to support both our softball and baseball teams in the quest for a national championship. Good thing ol' Dwight D. Eisenhower built this country's interstate system!!
Although this schedule can be exhausting, it is also inspiring to watch our student-athletes perform! Some of the best times in the job are traveling with these kids. They may not always be perfect, but they sure are great representatives of our school, their programs, and their families. With both softball and baseball teams this past weekend, I had hotel personnel and bus drivers both tell me how much they enjoyed being around our kids. They talked about how polite they were and how they always thanked them for their work on their behalf. I get that a lot when traveling with our teams. That starts with great leadership like Head Softball Coach Doug "Doc" Woods, and Head Baseball Coach Jamie Detillion. Both of these teams won with class all weekend, and that matters a lot in my book!
So it will be off to Gaylord, Mich., Salem, Va., and Cary, N.C. this week to do it all over again! GO LAKERS!