Athletic Director Bill Beekman
First I’d like to thank Chairman Breslin and President Engler for your kind words. I’m thankful for the trustees that they came from far away on relatively last minute notice to be here with us today. I’ve very much enjoyed working with the board the last 10 and a half years. I’ve worked with 14 trustees and two presidents, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount from all of them. I’m very blessed to have had that experience.
My wife Cindy is here today. We met during our freshman year at MSU, when we both lived over in Case Hall, 6 North. She’s our family’s greatest and most passionate Spartan. Before I have to answer to any of you about the state of our department or our University, I have to answer to Cindy. And when it comes to the University she loves, she’s a force to be reckoned with. Cindy is the chief play-caller and captain of our team. The rest of the team includes our three children, who are also here today: Katie, Nick and Will. I’d also like to introduce my parents, Kay and Ted Beekman. Their Spartan passion runs as deep as mine. My earliest memories of Michigan State are attending band day football games with my father. My parents met at Groesbeck Golf Course in Lansing, so if it weren’t for their interest in athletics, I literally wouldn’t be here today.
I’d also like to thank our Provost June Youatt for joining us. In addition to being a great athletic institution, MSU is a land grant university, it is one of 62 members of the prestigious Association of American universities, and MSU is widely regarded as one of the world’s top 100 universities. While many refer to athletics as the front porch of the university, our academic excellence is driven by Provost Youatt and our deans. Our department will work hand and glove with our academic colleagues to ensure that MSU’s best days are ahead of them.
When Mark Hollis became athletic director in January 2008, at his press conference, he said: “There will be no rest until it is the norm to open a football season and anticipate that the season will end with the paint of roses staining our cleats.” Mark kept his word, and our success on the football field, as well as the basketball court, has been extraordinary. Our job going forward is to continue that work, providing our Olympic sports with the tools they need and ensuring they have every opportunity to succeed, while continuing to support and develop our successful football and basketball programs.
We’re on the cusp of greatness in many of our Olympic sports. Our volleyball program, under the leadership of Coach George, finished in the Elite Eight last season. Our men’s soccer program, under the leadership of Coach Rensing, has achieved three Elite Eights in the last five years. And our women’s golf program, under the leadership of Coach Slobodnik-Stoll, is the two-time defending Big Ten Champion. And those are but three examples. Indeed, we have a strong base in which to grow. The Hall of Champions, in which we now stand, presents 27 National Championships and 131 Big Ten Championships achieved by Spartan athletic teams. We will continue to add plaques to these walls.
Our athletic department will only be successful if every student has the opportunity to succeed on the field of play, in the classroom, and in life. While we will be judged primarily by our success on the field of play, we will have failed if we cannot also graduate our students and ensure that they are well prepared for life’s journey.
As I’ve told our coaches, I view our athletic department as a set of concentric circles. The innermost circle represents our student-athletes. The next circle represents the individuals who impact those students on a daily basis: their coaches, athletic trainers, tutors, our strength and conditioning team, and so on. The next several concentric circles represent our administrative team. And our job, those of us on the outer circles, is to be laser focused on the success of that innermost circle – our students.
Miles Bridges famously said, “It’s not about me, it’s about us.” I’ll paraphrase Miles to say, “It’s not about me or us, it’s about them.” It’s about our 700 student-athletes and their success on the field, in the classroom, and in life. That success is not possible unless we can assure the health, safety and wellness of every student-athlete. That hasn’t always been the case. As a result, the last several years have been among the darkest in our history. Among the over 300 survivors who came forward that were subject to Larry Nassar’s horrific acts, over 30 were MSU students, and several of those students were student-athletes. We must do better and we will. We have improved and increased training at all levels. We’ve developed polices to ensure the availability of, and access to, chaperones for our students when they visit medical professionals, and we’ve reviewed all reporting protocols, to name just a few measures that we’ve taken.
But all of the rules in the world won’t make a difference unless we have a culture committed to the health, safety and wellness of every member of our community. That commitment will permeate everything we do. Achieving our goals requires a team effort, and we’ve got a strong and seasoned team. Of our 25 varsity sports, 17 have had the same head coach for 10 years or more. And of the remaining eight, two are now coached by a longtime assistant coach. Several of our coaches were available to join us this morning. Those that were not were on recruiting trips or are working with students across the university in sports camps. I want to thank all of them for taking time out of their busy schedules to join us today. It certainly means the world to me.
We also have a strong administrative team. Greg Ianni is our Deputy Director and our facilities lead, he works everyday to give our teams the tools they need to win. Our Senior Women’s Administrator and Compliance lead, Jennifer Smith, and our Chief of Staff and Sports Administration lead, Alan Haller, bring decades of experience, judgment and wisdom to our team. They, along with the rest of our athletic department will come to work everyday, focused on the inner most circle: our student-athletes. I come to this role without the benefit of having managed an athletic department. In fact, my only personal foray into competitive athletics was my high school cross country team, more than a few pounds ago (laughter). What I do bring to the role is 25 years of administrative experience, and a calling to serve this University, the University I love, and its land-grant mission to make our world a better place. Kirk Cousins once said that ‘champions are built on a thousand invisible mornings.’ I can’t think of many more phrases that more accurately capture the land-grant spirit, and our commitment to excellence. Excellence isn’t easy, success comes with struggle, but I commit to each of you, and our Spartan family across the globe, that each and every morning we will come to this building with a complete and total focus on victory: victory on the field, victory in the classroom and victory in creating the opportunities for a life well-lived. Spartans Will! Thank you!
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