A new era in William Woods Athletics dawned last December, when the University welcomed a new Athletic Director for the first time in 11 years. Steve Wilson came to The Woods with more than 20 years of experience in college athletics, including serving as an athletic director, assistant athletic director, sports information/media relations director, broadcaster and coach. He recently sat down to answer Five Questions for The Woods Today, as told to John Fougere:
1.) Where are you from, and what was your background before coming to William Woods? Originally, I’m from Salina, KS, and after graduating from Kansas State University, I’ve spent the last two decades in collegiate athletics, living in three different states. I started my athletics career in media relations with Texas State Athletics, and came back to the plains when I took a position at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics in the national headquarters. I figured out quickly that I belong on a college campus, interacting with student-athletes. Students and their experience are my passion. After the NAIA office, I spent 12 and a half years with Park University – the first 11 in Parkville, Mo., before a year and a half as Director of Athletics and golf coach at Park’s new campus in Arizona. In Missouri, I held several different roles, ranging from coach to sports information director, to assistant athletic director, and eventually associate athletic director for compliance. Prior to The Woods, I was at Kansas Wesleyan University in my home town, for three years, before this incredible opportunity at William Woods!
2.) What about William Woods prompted you to pursue your current position here?
Quite simply, it’s the people. From my first interactions with Dr. Andy Otto and Dr. Ted Blashak, as well as Tracy Gastineau and the rest of the athletics staff, I knew this was the right fit for me. We are on to so many exciting, fun things that are going to drive a true championship culture. It’s exciting to be here, and it’s exciting to be back in a conference I’m extremely familiar with in the American Midwest Conference. We have a fantastic commissioner and incredible professionals across the AMC working on behalf of students. It’s easy to get excited about what’s on the horizon at The Woods!
3.) Who led you to choose a career in higher education athletic administration?
It started when I was a kid. My dad was a collegiate coach, and his entire career was spent in sports. Before and after coaching, he was helping coaches get their jobs done through his work in a sporting goods company in Kansas. He was incredible at his job, and I got to grow up around coaches, student-athletes, and in and out of gyms across the state. My mom was (and still is!) an incredible golfer, and she and my dad helped me fall in love with that sport. When I realized I was only ok at the game, and not an elite player, I shifted my focus, in college, to a career in this world. Started with broadcasting, then media relations, and I was hooked. There’s no bigger thrill than seeing student-athletes succeed in the classroom, and in competition, and then close it out with the ultimate championship on graduation day.
4.) What are your major goals/priorities for the Athletic Department here at William Woods? First and foremost, we have to carry on an academic tradition that is second to none. This is an incredibly strong department when it comes to academics, and we will continue to fly that banner high. We’re also going to win, unapologetically, and we’re going to work hard to give coaches and student-athletes the resources they need to get the job done. It’s fulfilling to see students and coaches in love with representing the school’s colors, and doing it at a high level. Socially, we’re going to make Fulton and Mid-Missouri a better place to live, through the way we entertain the community, and through the way we serve the community. And hopefully, that leads to new ways for the community, our fantastic alumni, and our fans to support the Owls. We’ll win championships, and that will start in the classroom. We’ll continue to be a group of hard-working people, working collaboratively to carry on tradition and bring a lot of pride to The Woods.
5.) You have a whole day free to do some things that you enjoy. How would you fill up such a day? It would have to involve my family, because they’re what fills my cup. My wife, Juli, is the biggest fan of whatever I’m doing on the planet. Doesn’t matter where we go, she gets involved and is my biggest cheerleader. And my daughter, Finley, follows suit. They are so excited to be here in Missouri at the end of the school year! I love Cardinal baseball, and I like the Royals (in that order). In the fall, my Sunday afternoons belong to the Chiefs. In the middle of all of that, trips to the condo and lake in Branson, and a little golf mixed in, help me get my mind off of the challenges that might be present in life or at work. I love coming back energized, and looking at problems and solutions differently, once I’ve had a chance to get out and recharge.