Mentally ill man killed by Detroit police had earlier encounter with officers

New Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller tells student-athletes: 'I work for you'

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Nope, God wasn’t kidding.

That much was clear to Alan Haller on Tuesday as he was introduced as the 20th athletic director at Michigan State.

Alan Haller is introduced as the new Michigan State athletic director.

The former Spartan football player and track and field athlete who made it to the NFL, became a cop at Michigan State and then ascended through the athletic department was unanimously approved as the Spartans’ AD in a vote by the Board of Trustees last week. But it was Tuesday where the university community got to come out and celebrate the move, complete with the MSU band belting out the fight song as MSU’s coaches — Tom Izzo and Mel Tucker included — as well as student-athletes from every program on campus took it all in.

As Haller stepped to the podium at the Izzo Hall of History inside the Breslin Center, he was overwhelmed.

“Wow,” he said. “This is incredible.”

And it was then that the gravity of the moment was sinking in for the Lansing native.

“My pastor, in one of his sermons recently, he mentioned that God had a sense of humor,” Haller recalled. “Ever since last week, I’ve been thinking about that sermon, Wednesday when I was appointed. I’m like, ‘How big of a sense of humor does God have? Is this really real?’

“Yes, it is. I’m your athletic director, and I’m excited.”

As Haller told the story, he pinched his arm.

Yes, indeed, this was real, and by the outpouring of support Tuesday, it was clear his appointment has the chance to bring the entire department together.

With a group of speakers that included Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren as well as Izzo, Tucker, softball coach Jacquie Joseph and women’s golf coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, the praise was unanimous for Haller’s hiring.

“To build a championship culture, we need the right people in the right seats at the right time,” Tucker said. “You have to want it, you have to  believe it, but you have to live it as well. Alan does that each and every day. Alan has a vision, a progressive mindset that I admire in a leader. Alan will be a visible, vocal innovator, a proactive leader for MSU, the Big Ten and nationally.

“The Spartan family is strong. We have a solid foundation. Now's the time to build the future, and Alan is that leader.”

Tucker also shared how Haller joined Michigan State’s team in the locker room after Friday night’s season-opening victory at Northwestern. Tucker presented Haller with an MSU jersey with his name and the No. 20 on it.

When Haller was introduced, the team started chanting, “AD, AD, AD!”

“It was a special moment to share with our players,” Tucker said. “They went crazy.”

Added Joseph, “This is not an easy job. He'll need the support of everyone who cares about MSU athletics. But he has the vision and toughness to lead it and he will have that from the coaches.”

Similar sentiments came from Slobodnik-Stoll and Izzo, while women’s track and field athlete Brooke Bogan, a fifth-year senior said she appreciated Haller’s work with diversity and inclusion within the department and appreciated he was a former athlete, especially that he competed in track.

“I've made it a personal point to get him on the track to see if he's still got it,” Bogan joked.

When Haller took to the podium, he was, at times, overtaken by emotion. He noticed former coaches in the crowd, even former MSU track and field coach Jim Bibbs. He talked about growing up in Lansing and what his mom and dad did for him. He recognized his family, called his daughter his “rock” and thanked outgoing athletic director Bill Beekman.

Haller talked about persevering, referencing being cut eight times during his NFL career.

“I didn’t even think that was possible,” he said.

And late in his remarks, he made it clear who he was there for.

“I promise you this, current and former student-athletes,” Haller said. “We will work extremely hard to make sure you are proud of your athletic department.”

Haller then asked every student-athlete to rise, and spoke directly to them.

“I am not the athletic director, I'm your athletic director,” he said. “I work for you.”

Twitter: @mattcharboneau