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Mark Dantonio: New AD Bill Beekman a ‘unifying force’ for MSU

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Bill Beekman is introduced as Michigan State's new athletic director during a news conference on Monday.

When John Engler named Bill Beekman Michigan State’s interim athletic director in February, he said a national search would follow and that no internal candidates would be considered.

Five months later, Engler, the university’s interim president, named Beekman Michigan State’s permanent athletic director, citing the feedback he received from other Big Ten athletic directors and the overwhelming support offered by Michigan State’s 25 head coaches while touting Beekman’s more than 20 years in various positions at MSU.

“He has all of the skills necessary,” Engler said Monday. “I think we can look across the country and would have been hard-pressed to find somebody that would know Michigan State like Bill does with the qualities he has. We ended up not needing to do the national search.”

Beekman received unanimous support from the Board of Trustees, which is expected to formally approve the hire on Tuesday morning.

“As I met with the coaches and met with the student-athletes, it really became very rewarding,” Beekman said. “They're easy people to work for. Certainly as the months progressed, I felt more comfortable in the role and thought that it would be a great challenge to take on.”

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It was Feb. 5 when Engler, then barely a week into his post as Michigan State’s interim president, asked Beekman to take on the job as interim athletic director, a position Beekman said on Monday was the “furthest thing from his mind.”

The appointment was necessary following the retirement of former athletic director Mark Hollis, who stepped down just days after former MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon resigned in the wake of the sexual assault scandal surrounding former MSU doctor Larry Nassar, who molested hundreds of women during his years as an osteopathic physician at MSU and as team doctor for USA Gymnastics.

Beekman, then the secretary of the board of trustees, took over with the thought toward looking outside the university for a permanent replacement. However, Engler said it didn’t take long to understand Beekman might just be the right person for the job.

“When I first appointed Bill I said I had confidence he would provide very capable leadership,” Engler said. “Well, Bill has done that and much, much more. I have spoken with our coaches and consulted extensively with our trustees about the search for a permanent AD. You’ll remember I talked about a national search and I said that we would not go internal to the athletic department and that was part of the thinking when Bill was actually named.

“As we started talking about the search I kept hearing from virtually everyone that they loved the job that Bill was doing, the job that he’s done for five-and-a-half months, on the job here as interim athletic director. The descriptions were marvelous. Bill was described first and foremost as a person with great integrity, very attentive, a terrific listener, someone that really knows the university. I had several people remark about Bill’s calming influence. I didn’t know Bill well before coming to the university in February. I have to say I’m among the many who have been very impressed by Bill.”

The key, it appears, is the way Beekman was able to win over the current group of coaches, including basketball coach Tom Izzo and football coach Mark Dantonio. They were joined on Monday by most of the school’s head coaches, including women’s basketball coach Suzy Merchant, hockey coach Danton Cole, volleyball coach Cathy George and baseball coach Jake Boss, among others.

A handful of assistants — namely from football and men’s basketball — were also on hand, all to offer support of the hiring.

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From left, Tom Izzo, Danton Cole, Suzy Merchant and Mark Dantonio listen to Bill Beekman speak Monday.

“As things unfolded this spring, leadership was sort of thrust on Bill Beekman in a rather unusual way coming from administration,” Dantonio said. “I really think and believe, though, leadership takes its place in so many different forms and he’s had a unifying force for our entire athletic department since coming on. I found him to be a great listener, but also calm. He has a distinguished presence at this university. … Every step of the way I think he’s seen as a positive.

“He is a Spartan, I don’t think there’s any question about that. He has the best interest of all Spartans at heart.”

Beekman has proven that throughout his career, but showed the coaches over the last five months what he would be like as an AD. It was enough to win them over.

“You got 26 coaches and a bunch of assistants and a bunch of workers that are gonna work as hard as we can work to make your stint successful,” Izzo said to Beekman. “A good assistant makes a head coach look good. Well, you’re our head coach and we’re going to do our best to make you look good.”

Before becoming a MSU vice president and board secretary, Beekman was executive director of the MSU Alumni Association, senior adviser to the provost and assistant dean for finance in the College of Human Medicine.

Beekman received his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, his Juris Doctor degree from Wayne State University Law School, and his undergraduate degree in justice, morality and constitutional democracy from James Madison College at MSU.