Ypsilanti — Scott Wetherbee is coming home to take over the job of running Eastern Michigan’s athletic department.
Eastern will be looking for Wetherbee to use the marketing skills he showed at East Carolina (2003-13) and Mississippi State (2013-17) to help build the Eagles’ fan base, especially in football and basketball.
Wetherbee, 42, is a native of Kalamazoo, patrolling the left side of the infield with Derek Jeter while playing for Mike Hinga’s Kalamazoo Maroons’ travel team 25 years ago. He played shortstop at Kalamazoo Loy Norrix while Jeter played the same position at Kalamazoo Central, before moving over to play third base for the Maroons.
Wetherbee, a Ball State grad, got his start in athletic administration when WMU athletic director, Kathy Beauregard, hired him as a ticket-office intern 20 years ago. He had played football for Beauregard’s husband Rick who was also his guidance counselor at Loy Norrix.
Wetherbee was announced by Eastern president James M. Smith as the school’s 14th athletic director Tuesday. He replaces Heather Lyke who took over a similar position at Pittsburgh this spring.
Wetherbee will receive a five-year contract worth $269,000 annually.
While serving as senior associate athletic director for external affairs at Mississippi State from 2013-17, the program’s marketing department became the first back-to-back winner of the National Association Collegiate Marketing Administrators Team of the Year.
“I’m a MAC guy,” Wetherbee said at his introductory news conference at Convocation Center, with his wife, Tracy, 12-year-old daughter Taylor and 9-year-old son Spencer in attendance, along with his father, who made the trip from Kalamazoo. “I went to Ball State, I worked at Western Michigan, my mom has a degree from Western Michigan, I also worked at Ball State so I’ve got that background and that feel so that’s a big part of that, understanding Eastern Michigan, knowing about Eastern Michigan, knowing about Ypsilanti and the Mid-American Conference.
“I thought this place was a good fit for me, felt it was a great opportunity for us to make as a family, an impact in the community, the university, Ypsilanti, the athletic department as a whole. There are just great people here. When I met with all the different constituents, all the different groups, I just really felt comfortable and that meant a lot. We have great coaches and a great staff and that’s really important, to hire talented people and let them do their jobs. We have great academics.”
Lyke hit a home run with the hiring of Chris Creighton, who guided the football team to its first winning season since 1995 and first bowl appearance since its last MAC championship in 1987, going from 1-11 in 2015 to 7-6, 4-4 in MAC play.
Now, it will be Wetherbee and his department’s job to capitalize on the football program, especially with a talented quarterback in Brogan Roback returning, along with the bulk of the other skill position players .