Monday, February 13, 2017

Hildebrand, Part IV: Innovative athletic director, mentor

         (Fourth in a series)
         He wasn't sure he wanted the job at first, but once he became athletic director at Northwestern State early in 1983, Tynes Hildebrand -- as he did in all phases of his life and career -- made the most of it.
          He had the job for 13 1/2 years and, as NSU sports information director Doug Ireland wrote a couple of years ago, he "used creative approaches that maximized resources" and "his tenure was marked by unprecedented competitive and fundraising success."
          But first, an interlude, and another job.

          His coaching career done in 1980, he stayed on the NSU campus in an administrative role for 2 1/2 years: placement director for students.
           "That meant getting jobs for graduates," he said, noting how much he enjoyed the position. "It was a time when plenty of jobs were available all over the country. I worked with every department on campus. Jobs were easy to get."
            And then, fortuitously, as the job market waned, the NSU athletic director position came open late in 1982 when  A.L. Williams was not retained as head football coach and AD (and moved on to become head coach at his alma mater, Louisiana Tech).
           "When they put athletics in my area in 1982," said longtime NSU vice-president Jerry Pierce, "my first call was to Tynes to see if he would take the AD position."
           Coach Hildebrand demurred.
           He recalled that when he was told that new NSU president Dr. Joseph Orze wanted to see him, and it was about the AD job, he wasn't ready.
           "Julia and I were co-chairs of the Natchitoches Christmas Festival that year, and we were so busy with that," he recalled. "I just didn't want to think about changing positions at that point. So I put off the meeting."
           Natchitoches is known for that annual holiday festival, with thousands coming in the first Saturday in December when the bright lights come on for the first time in the decorated downtown area (with the brick-paved main road next to the Cane River). It is a big deal there. 
         "I didn't want that damn job," Coach Hildebrand said of his initial feeling. "I was hoping he [Dr. Orze] would find someone else [in the meantime.]"
         Eventually, after the holiday season, he was convinced he was the right man for the job, and the job was right for him. And, as always, he transitioned into another phase.
         He became involved in NCAA committee work, including selection of the Division I-AA postseason selection panels; in 1987, he helped Northwestern move into the Southland Conference, where it remains today; and he was instrumental in installation of artificial turf at much-used Turpin Stadium, a $750,000 cost as NSU was among the first schools in the state to go that route.
Through the years Coach Hildebrand has been a
popular -- and often humorous -- public speaker.
        "Tynes and I were involved in three different conferences," said longtime coach/AD/conference commissioner Don Landry. "In each one, he was a leader and one of the most respected members. He always supported anything that was best for the league."
        Hildebrand had a plus in that NSU had only one head football coach, Sam Goodwin, in his time as AD -- a stable, consistently competitive program (highlighted by a 10-3 record in 1988).
        But as funding for athletics at the state's public universities (other than LSU) was trimmed through the years, fund-raising and smaller staffs were challenges for Hildebrand as AD.
        "Every day we had to think about money," he said. "At places like Northwestern, you have got to raise money or you don't survive. We'd have staff meetings every Monday and I'd ask everyone, 'How much money did you raise last week?'
        "But we were fortunate to operate at our own pace without killing someone."
        And he found a formula to supplement the short-staffed situation. His athletic director role was marked -- again -- by the connections he made and the people he mentored.
        "He was very innovative," Landry said. "With a small budget, he could not hire adequate number of fulltime staff members to do the work required. He started hiring young, bright graduates with sports administration degrees.
        "He would train them, give them lots of responsibility and let them grow into experienced sports administrators."
        "These young people were required to get a hands-on year to finish their [sports administration] degree," explained Hildebrand. So he had a spot for them.
        The list of Hildebrand trainees is impressive, and it's just a sample:
         • Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey, who went from NSU athletics (including two years as golf coach) to director of compliance and academic services on campus, then moved on to the Southland Conference and the SEC in various administrative roles.
        • Greg Burke, Hildebrand's assistant AD for six years at NSU and his successor who now has been in the job for 21 years, long-serving AD in Louisiana and respected far beyond the state.
        • Ross Cobb, who was at NSU 1993-97, now senior associate AD for business and facilities at University of Arizona.
        • Glen Krupica, former executive director of the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, now involved in fund-raising in Illinois.
        • Mark Molesworth, retired after 20 years as AD at Division III Wisconsin-Platteville.
        "He was a mentor and a role model," said Pierce.
        "I do wish I would have done the job without spending half my time getting money to operate," Hildebrand said recently of his AD days. "But it was a great time."
        And then in 1996, he retired ... or so he thought.
        (Next: Keeping watch on the officials)


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