When Bill Beekman was originally named Michigan State’s Interim Athletic Director in February, few gave him a chance to be named as the permanent athletic director, but as time passed over the past few months, Beekman emerged as the obvious choice to lead the athletic department forward as he became viewed as a unifying figure within the department.
And Michigan State officially removed the interim tag from Beekman’s title, naming him the permanent Athletic Director moving forward, replacing Mark Hollis, who retired back at the end of January.
Beekman sat down for an exclusive interview with Spartan Nation following the announcement to discuss all things Michigan State athletics and said that he’s excited to have the support of those in and around the athletic department and feels he is well suited for the position because of his history with the university and prior education and experience.
“I’m a pretty simple, straight forward person,” he said. “I come into the office every day - if the key works, it’s a good day - and I just try to do what I think I can to move the department and the university forward. I think that requires working with people, it requires listening to people, understanding what their problems are and frankly, it’s easy to cut on lawyers, but people ask me, ‘You haven’t been a lawyer for 20 years, was it valuable to go to law school?’ and it did teach me listening skills and problem solving skills that I found very valuable in life. So if people think I’m a unifier, that’s really wonderful and I’m appreciative, but my goal is to really work with people, help understand their problems, help solve their problems and make the university a better place any way I can.”
Beekman, a Michigan State graduate, has worked for Michigan State since 1995, serving in a number of different roles, most recently, as the university’s Vice President and Secretary of the Board of Trustees since 2008.
Now tasked with overseeing all 25 of Michigan State’s athletic programs, Beekman said that he obviously understands that the football and men’s basketball program are what help bring in revenue for the school, but is dedicated to making sure that all of the athletic programs are successful now and in the future.
“Certainly, if we don’t fill the stadium, we lose revenue,” he said. “So when you look at our budget, a huge piece of that budget is filling the stadium. We’ve got 70,000 seats to fill - Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State all have over 100,000, so we start the race behind and we’ve got to be as smart as we can, as efficient as we can to make sure that we don’t lose sight of that. We’ve got to catch up, so football is critically important, as is basketball. But that doesn’t mean that the others aren’t important and my agenda is that we should be successful in every sport, success might mean something a little different. I’m not expecting some of our sports to compete for national championships any time soon, but we should be competitive in every sport. There’s no reason any sport at Michigan State can’t win a Big Ten Championship.”
After spending much of his time at Michigan State in a role behind the scenes, Beekman will now become on of the university’s most well known public figures and said he’s looking forward to the change and simply said he wan’t to make a positive impact on the university each and every day he is on the job.
“To me, it’s an extraordinary opportunity and, in a way, it’s no different than I’ve looked at any other day in the almost 24 years I’ve been at MSU, except, it’s sort of magnified 100 times because it’s so extraordinarily public, whereas my other roles have not been,” he said. “But it’s an opportunity, every day is an opportunity to make things better. We had a Vice President starting at the university and she came over and sat down with me and wanted to learn about the university, hadn’t spent time here previously and said, ‘What do you think the goal are at Michigan State? What’s our agenda? What’s our priority?’ I said, It’s really simple, Michigan State’s job is to make the world a better place.’ My job is to help Michigan State make the world a better place and to me, that’s the opportunity every day. You’ve got eight, 10, 12, 14 hours in a day depending on what you’ve got going that day and every day is an opportunity to make the world a little better. In this case, it’s through athletics, it’s very public, it’s no less important, but it’s different, but it’s an opportunity to make things better and working with great people across the university. I just couldn’t be more blessed to have that opportunity.”
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