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Finalist for AD at Bemidji State: Dill visits, meets with Bemidji community

Tracy Dill, a finalist for Bemidji State University’s athletic director position, speaks to members of the Bemidji community during a meet-and-greet session Friday night at the Sanford Center. BSU officials said they would announce their decision early next week. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – Bemidji State University President Richard Hanson has high expectations for his next athletic director. As he explained Friday, it’s a four-part list that looks daunting: excellence in support for athletes, excellence in resource allocation and acquisition, excellence in performance and excellence in creating and maintaining partnerships in the community.

With his strong backgrounds in coaching, marketing and administration, Tracy Dill seems to fit all of Hanson’s stringent requirements.

“I think we have a very good finalist,” Hanson said of Dill. “He’s responded very well to the challenges I just articulated up there. I think he’s up for it. I haven’t heard too many people say he’s not our guy.”

Dill, the only finalist as of now for Bemidji State’s athletic director position, had the chance to impress everyone in the Bemidji community in a meet-and-greet conference Friday night at the Sanford Center.

“I just think the upside here is really good,” Dill said of BSU. “I think they’ve got great people. It’s all about people. I like the vision of the president. I know it’s a daunting task, one that’s going to take lots and lots of time and effort, but I enjoy doing those types of things.”

Dill has been at St. Cloud State since 1985, when he was hired as an assistant football coach. He has also served as head men’s track and field coach and head women’s track and field coach before transferring over to the administrative side.

Since 1999 he has been St. Cloud State’s director of promotions and marketing.

If hired, Dill would take over for outgoing athletic director Rick Goeb, who was effectively fired from the position last November after a report released by the athletic department detailing Bemidji State’s financial struggles in athletics. Goeb was given until the end of the 2012-13 academic year to finish out his term.

Dill would inherit a program that faces many challenges – most notably fundraising in a time when many colleges are cutting back.

“He’s excited about students, he’s excited about fixing the financial challenges – and we have plenty of those – and he’s excited about the whole notion of excellence,” Hanson said of Dill. “And that’s music to a president’s ears. We like that.”

Dill acknowledged that many college athletic departments are having trouble making money and getting funding, but said the key to raising money is raising awareness. And the main way to do that is by maintaining healthy relationships with the campus and the community.

 “In athletics, it’s all about relationships,” Dill said. “But if you develop relationships… butts in seats are also what drive athletic departments. You get people to come to games, they have a positive experience and you hopefully generate some revenue that way. If you have people in the seats, sponsors come aboard.”

That word – “relationship” – was the theme for Dill, who addressed a crowd of about 50 people comprised of university, staff, alumni and members of the community. He also emphasized the importance of internal communication – making sure everyone in the athletic community is on the same page.

“You have to fix what’s going on inside the shop and create positive messages and make sure everybody’s out saying the same message,” he said. “Hopefully that gets out externally. You have to get out and do things that are a little bit different. You have to work outside the box.”

Dill works mainly with promotions and marketing at St. Cloud State and gave a few examples of things the school has done under his watch that have been successful, including a new online ticketing system that Dill helped implement.

He also worked to improve student involvement at athletics events, which he said helps create better atmosphere. That, he said, also leads to building a better relationship with the community.

“Student involvement is important,” he said. “When the students are active in the game, up chanting the whole time creating a great atmosphere, it makes it fun for everybody at the game.”

Dill spoke for about 15 minutes Friday, introducing himself and discussing his background before taking questions from the audience. He also spent some time speaking to the media in a one-on-one basis.

According to Bill Maki, BSU’s vice president of finance and administration and the head of the search committee, the school would announce its decision sometime next week. All of it, he said, was contingent on negotiations between Hanson and Dill, which were scheduled to take place after the meet-and-greet.

“That’s the plan,” Maki said. “They’ll talk about (how the day went) and if all goes well, they’ll sit down and try and work something out.”

Hanson said ideally Dill would start the job sometime in June. Hanson also noted he wanted to make the transition from Goeb to Dill as smooth as possible.

“We’re trying to be very respectful of Rick. This isn’t about hurting him, quite the contrary,” Hanson said. “We’re going to be doing everything we can to take care of (Goeb).”

The future is uncertain but Hanson hopes things come to fruition soon.

“We have to negotiate something,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of money but I expect over the weekend we’ll have some sort of resolution.”