This is the third in a weekly series of quick-hit Q&As catching up with the state’s Division I athletic directors.
Up this week: Central Michigan’s Michael Alford, who arrived from Oklahoma to replace longtime AD Dave Heeke, and whose first official day on the job was Monday.
Alford spoke to The News on Tuesday, yes, a holiday which he spent in the office, hammering out several thank-you notes.
■ Question: Of course, it’s been a long dream of yours to be a Division I athletic director. What made the Central Michigan opportunity a good fit?
■ Answer: One was when I got to meet President (George) Ross and listening to his vision, not only for the university but the department of athletics, that was really impressive. And then the people, just the energy, the positive energy that everyone brought with them and talking about CMU. I’ve got some friends that went to school here, too, and I reached out to them about this opportunity, and you could hear it through the phone. I could feel them getting on the edge of their seat. Their love for the university really came out, just the passion people have for CMU.
■ Q: How much do you know about the big rivalry with Western Michigan?
■ A: You know, I am aware of it. I was before I came here. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of and participate in some of the best rivalries in college sports, USC-Notre Dame, USC-UCLA, Oklahoma-Texas, Oklahoma-Oklahoma State, Alabama-Auburn, Alabama-Tennessee, Dallas Cowboys-Washington ... It’s been a thrill to be a part of those. And the Central-Western rivalry, people across the country know about it. I’m looking forward to it, and my family is looking forward to it.
■ Q: Speaking of the rivalry, I know it’s a bit early for you, but this year’s football game is scheduled for midweek. Is that ideal for a rivalry as passionate among the fans and students as Central-Western?
■ A: I have to get it examined and everything, and listen to President Ross, listen to our commissioner, talk to Kathy (Beauregard, Western athletic director), and get a better feel for a Saturday or a Wednesday. Of course, you always want to provide the best experience for the student athletes and fans, and if that’s a Saturday, then that’s a Saturday. And if for our fans and student athletes the best experience is on a Wednesday, then it’s on a Wednesday. It’s our job, no matter what we do, to keep the tradition and excitement around that rivalry.”
■ Q: Before your first official day on the job, you attended the annual Chippewa Challenge golf outing, where Dick Enberg teamed up with another alum to match the proceeds from the silent auction. That led to a banner fundraising day. How cool was that?
■ A: It was a gift, a thank-you, and I was really appreciative they wanted that day, during my press conference, to make a statement. They wanted to participate in our vision and encourage others to participate and help provide the best experience possible.
■ Q: As always, we have to ask about football. Your initial thoughts on the program, which is 13-13 with two bowl appearances in John Bonamego’s two years as coach?
■ A: Coach Bonamego is doing an excellent job in his short stint here so far. He has great vision for the program, I like his experience, I like what he was to offer recruits coming in. I like his attitude and his staff. There’s nothing but bright things ahead for our program.
Next week’s Q&A will be with new Eastern Michigan athletic director Scott Wetherbee.
Like father, like son?
That probably will change when he makes his hires — and one name to watch, Patrick Beilein, his 34-year-old son who coached two seasons at Division II Le Moyne in Syracuse, N.Y.
Patrick Beilein’s name always comes up when his dad has openings, but they have scoffed at them in the past. This year could be different. The younger Beilein is plenty accomplished, having coached two seasons at West Virginia Wesleyan before taking over Le Moyne, which went 22-7 and made the Division II NCAA Tournament this year.
He started his coaching career as a grad assistant at Michigan, and also has made stops at Dartmouth, Bradley and with the Utah Jazz.
John Beilein is a classy fella who would hate being accused of nepotism, but when you’re qualified, you’re qualified, naysayers be damned.
There’s also this: John Beilein, in several media stories in the past few months, has talked about a change in perspective since the scary plane mishap before the Big Ten tournament. Basketball is just a game, family is forever.
Hiring announcements should be coming from Michigan and Oakland, which also lost two assistants this offseason, sometime in the next couple of weeks.
This and that
■ I’ve heard from several folks that the bar must be incredibly low at Eastern Michigan if a 7-6 season earned coach Chris Creighton a five-year contract extension. Well, yeah. When the Eagles hadn’t had a winning season since 1995 and hadn’t made a bowl game since 1986, 7-6 is a miracle.
In other EMU news, women’s gymnastics coach Josh Nilson resigned for personal reasons, and a national search for a replacement has begun. He was hired June 9.
■ There’s still no definitive word from Detroit Mercy whether Jaleel Hogan will be on the basketball team this fall. He tweeted out a while ago that he was leaving, but that tweet was quickly deleted. The 6-foot-7, 260-pound forward would be a big loss for a young team. He led the Titans, averaging 15.2 points.
■ CMU will induct six into its athletics Hall of Fame during a ceremony in September, including Dan Bazuin (football), Wendy Feldman (volleyball), Toby Kominek (baseball), Jacquie Lacek (soccer), Jason Mester (wrestling) and Erica Takach (field hockey).
* Former Oakland basketball player Ryan Hoover has joined the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks as vice president of global scouting. He comes from the Pistons, where he was director of corporate partnerships and contributed on TV and radio broadcasts.
* Kalamazoo native Russ Rose has joined the Western Michigan women’s basketball team as an assistant coach. He comes from South Dakota.