Student-Athletes Meet Candidates for Athletic Director

Ariel Lewis, Staff Writer

In the weeks prior to spring break, the Director of Athletics Search Committee and the Oberlin College Department of Athletics welcomed four candidates to campus for final interviews and an introduction to the students, faculty, facilities and fundamentals of Oberlin’s athletic life as the search for Joe Karlgaard’s successor continues.

As part of the process, current student-athletes sat down with each candidate separately for an hour-long question-and-answer session. The forum allowed student-athletes to voice their concerns regarding past and future leadership, and offered candidates a chance to offer their vision for the future of Oberlin Athletics. Representatives from nearly all of Oberlin’s twenty varsity teams were in attendance. Two student members of the search committee — senior volleyball player Anna Frackman and senior football and track letter-winner Solomon Turner — led the discussions. Both emphasized the inclusion of students in the search process.

“Students should participate in the selection of the new AD because, in a way, whoever gets the job is working for us. The successful candidate will be held responsible for the student-athlete experience, so it is important that that person is supported by the student body,” said Turner.

Frackman added, “Because student-athletes have the most experience with the challenges and rewards of balancing academic life with varsity athletics at Oberlin, we are really in the best position to speak to the needs of the student-athletes and the student body at large.”

As if in response to the diversity of Oberlin’s student body, the candidates themselves each offered differing strengths and backgrounds. The most experienced of the candidates had served a combined 19 years as a Director of Athletics; the least experienced, only three years. While all candidates had involvement in Division III sports, some also featured work with Division I schools. One candidate emphasized fundraising, while another seemed to focus on school spirit and the overall atmosphere surrounding the athletics programs. Yet another wanted to tackle the issue of facilities.

More compelling than their differences, however, were the commonalities among the candidates. All recognized Oberlin as an academically prestigious school with the potential for vast improvements to athletics through facilities, on-field performance and attendance at games. The candidates also all projected a genuine interest in making Oberlin just as much their home as ours. One candidate called Oberlin a “destination school” — a place where real work can be done as opposed to a place whose name can be added to a resume in order to land a better job. “You realize, I have to decide to move my family to Oberlin for a while. That’s a big commitment,” one candidate said.

Following the four individual meetings, student-athletes discussed the candidates at length and compiled recommendations to be passed along to the search committee via Frackman and Turner. “The student-athletes seem to be most concerned about visibility and approachability,” said Frackman. “The athletes want a new AD who will be a visible part of the community and will make athletics a more visible and integrated aspect of student life. They want someone who will be involved in their programs, come to their games and cheer them on whether they are winning or losing. The approachability of the candidates is also important to the athletes. With the AD as the go-to person for students who are having problems with their coaches or their programs, it is important for students to feel comfortable talking to the AD in an open and honest way.”

With many of Oberlin’s spring sports well into their seasons, the hope is to have a new athletic director in place as soon as possible. In the meantime, track and field Head Coach Ray Appenheimer and Associate Director of Athletics/Senior Woman Administrator Natalie Winkelfoos will continue to serve as co-interim athletic directors.