EDWARDSVILLE - Throughout the course of most interview processes, a candidate is asked (at least once) how they will handle their first 90 days in the role. My on-campus interview at SIUE in early February was no different.
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If I remember correctly, my answer to the various versions of this question from different internal and external stakeholders included phrases like "hit the ground running", "start inside out", "build relationships", "build our team", and, personally, "transition the Gavin Family".
This past Sunday officially marked 90 days as the Director of Athletics at SIUE. The arrival and passing of that informal checkpoint provided me an opportunity to evaluate myself against those answers while reflecting on the past three months.
With that in mind, and as we look ahead to the fast approaching 2023-24 year, I wanted to share nine observations and reflections from my first 90 days as a Cougar.
- It's Not Too Late
Starting my tenure in mid-April, just weeks before Commencement, was interesting timing so late in the year. However, it provided a great opportunity to see things in action - our campus, our staff, and most importantly, our student-athletes. Within just a few weeks, I was able to cheer on women's tennis and men's golf at the OVC Championships, throw out the first pitch at baseball, watch baseball and softball, attend the Cougar Choice Awards, and assist our team hosting the OVC Track & Field Championships.
- Meet the New Cougar (and coming soon… Eddie)
Just prior to my arrival, SIUE unveiled our new Cougar logo. As a former communications professional, building the brand and telling our story will be a critical priority of our department. Getting to immediately introduce and utilize a new brand provides an important opportunity. We were due (maybe overdue) for a refresh, and we hope our fans and alumni will be excited to rock their new Cougar swag this fall. Speaking of this fall, get ready to meet the new Eddie soon, probably around Homecoming Weekend in mid-October (Oct. 13-15).
- Home Sweet Home in GlenEd (and for Glen and Ed)
The Gavin Family Circus has officially arrived in the community. When my wife and I were here for the Red & Black fundraising in March, we commented that everyone we met seemed to love both their neighborhood and their kids' school. Transitioning as a family of 6 and with four "customers" entering the school district, this was an anxiety-relieving observation to make. A few months later, we have moved (and sort of settled) into our home in Glen Carbon. We love the community and appreciate the warm welcome from the many people we have met. Our family even grew when we attended the Glen Carbon Homecoming and came home with two goldfish. In honor of our new community, naming them was easy - the grey one is Glen and the orange one is Ed.
- Community to Camp(us)
For me, the intersection of the personal and professional transition to SIUE and the community has been camps. Peyton (7-year old daughter) and Wyatt (5-year old son) have attended men's basketball, women's basketball, and soccer camps so far. Despite a few boo-boos and the Wisconsin kids' adjustment to the humidity, they've loved interacting with and learning from our Cougar student-athletes and coaches. As a Dad and an AD, I have been so impressed with how our teams commit to running robust, high-quality camps that provide memorable and meaningful experiences for kids in our community.
Peyton even won Camper of the Week at SIUE Soccer Camp last week. Preferential treatment? I'll let you be the judge...
- 23-Mile Opportunity
One Sunday, as we were pulling out to support Coach Barone as he threw out the first pitch at Busch Stadium, it dawned on me how close SIUE truly is to downtown St. Louis. In my first 90 Days, I have had the chance to cross the river to attend An Evening with the Chancellor, tour CITYPARK with the women's soccer team, engage with the St. Louis Sports Commission and the Missouri Athletic Club, and to connect with donors and supporters. We look forward to building more engagement and partnerships with friends, fans, alumni, and partners in St. Louis.
- Council Collegiality
Joining Chancellor James T. Minor and his Chancellor's Council at a time of promising transition and amazing opportunity for growth was one of the reasons I made the decision to come to SIUE. Over the past few months, interacting with this group of campus leaders has been a highlight. It is inspiring to work alongside a Chancellor's Council that possesses a collegiality, a collaborative spirit, and a collective commitment to achieving our goals, making progress, and supporting student success.
- Building the Squad
You Win with People! It is not possible for any leader to effectively lead without the strength of a great team. Therefore, one of the priorities for my First 90 Days has been reshaping and building our athletics leadership team. SIUE Athletics had bid farewell to many great employees over the past 12 months, and it was my commitment to put in place a team ready to serve and support our coaches and student-athletes before we started 2023-24.
I'm thrilled that our staff has been able to identify and attract some phenomenal new additions to our SIUE Athletics leadership team, hiring Dan McIver (Deputy AD), Eric Crist (Associate AD/Facilities and Operations), and Ashley Beaton Simpson (Assistant AD/Student-Athlete Success) while promoting Laura Smith-Keck (Director of External Relations) and Luke Young (Director of Marketing and Promotions).
- Gratitude for Teammates
The past 90 days have also been an indication of the sacrifice, hard work, and efforts of the SIUE Athletics coaches and staff throughout the entire 2022-23 year. Through a year filled with uncertainty, adversity, vacancies, and transition, the coaches and staff at SIUE stepped up in significant ways. Some of these efforts were visible to our student-athletes, campus colleagues, fans, and supporters, but most of these were sacrifices behind the scenes. Under the leadership of Interim Director of Athletics Derrick Brown, this group raised their hands to take more responsibility, filled gaps, and persevered to ensure that our student-athletes were taken care of and our athletics department achieved success. Thank You!
- Transition Gives Way to Anticipation
During a recent leadership exercise, I was asked to describe my current season of life with a word or a phrase. My response - Transition and Anticipation. As much of the past 90 days has been about transition, it quickly turns to anticipation for 2023-24. We're just weeks away from fall competition. More and more student-athletes arrive in the area and on campus each day, anticipating the start of official practices and games and the start of the semester. New staff members come to the office to join our team in preparation, anticipating welcoming student-athletes as well as our fans and supporters to campus.
For me, the anticipation of my first full year at SIUE. The anticipation of meeting our student-athletes. The anticipation of a new era. The anticipation of the Cougars reaching the next level. This anticipation translates to excitement, to optimism, to urgency, and to commitment.
I hope everyone else in the Cougar Family is similarly anticipating 2023-24. I look forward to seeing you soon! Go Cougars!
The Cougar Athletic Excellence Fund is the primary fundraising arm supporting SIUE Athletics. Through philanthropic giving and generous investments, supporters of the Cougar Athletic Excellence Fund positively and profoundly impact our student-athletes and varsity programs. To support SIUE Athletics and any of our programs heading into 2023-24, please visit Connect.SIUE.edu/g/athletics.
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