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Tracy Dill reflects on 9-year tenure as Bemidji State athletic director

Tracy Dill originally had an eight-year plan.

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BSU Athletic Director Tracy Dill speaks to a crowd of athletes and supporters during the dedication ceremony for the Frederick P. Baker Training Center in Feebruary 2019 at BSU.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — Tracy Dill originally had an eight-year plan.

The Bemidji State director of athletics planned to end his tenure in 2021, something he thought about as far back as the moment he took the job in 2013.

“Originally when I started here, I thought I'd work eight years at BSU and then I'd love to retire at that point,” Dill said.

But COVID-19 scuttled those well-laid plans. Dill stayed on to help guide the athletic department through the crisis.

“At that point, I said, ‘There is no way I'm going to hang it up,’” Dill said. “So I started this year off with the idea that I would see how things go, and then (I was) able to do it.”

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BSU announced Friday, Jan. 7, that Dill will retire as AD, effective July 1.

He leaves behind a legacy that includes the renovation of the former John S. Glas Fieldhouse into the Frederick P. Baker Training Center. This change, thanks in large part to a generous donation, breathed new life into a forgotten building that had been a big part of building up Beaver athletics.

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Tracy Dill, Bemidji State’s director of athletics, watches the BSU men’s basketball team take on Winona State on Jan. 7, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

“It was just a big shell, became a storage area primarily,” Dill said. “But now we really have a true area where both baseball and softball have a really good practice area. All of our programs that play outside can use that. But more importantly, in the summer, it's provided us an opportunity for movement, which is important with strength and conditioning.”

He also oversaw the broadcast transition from Lakeland PBS to FloHockey for Bemidji State men’s hockey. It’s a transition that not all local fans wanted, but Dill said it has brought in new revenues and new access to Beaver hockey for those living out of state.

“There's no doubt that Lakeland provided a strong TV production for us,” Dill said “We got exposure. Don't get me wrong on that. But there wasn't revenue coming in from it.”

The switch to streaming helped BSU fund its member fees for the WCHA and gave fans the opportunity to watch other WCHA games throughout the league, including BSU road games.

“(We had) the opportunity for some revenue to cut back on our annual fees that we had to pay to the league, which was important from a revenue standpoint,” Dill said. “And when we changed from the WCHA, went to the CCHA this year, we continued the same streaming package through that, with some enhancements.”

Dill became just the second full-time director of athletics ever in the spring of 2013. He brought in 32 years of experience between St. Cloud State and William Penn College.

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During Dill’s run, the Beavers have five conference championships and eight NCAA Tournament/Championship appearances. The department has also received seven conference and national coach of the year awards in the same era.

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Tracy Dill, Bemidji State’s director of athletics, on the sidelines of the BSU football game on Oct. 2, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

The 2019 departure of former softball coach Rick Supinski, who was accused of inappropriate conduct by a number of his players, also occurred during Dill’s tenure. Dill declined to comment at the time despite some of those players also citing frustrations at Dill’s inaction when they brought forth their concerns to Dill.

“All personnel matters that we have are confidential, and we deal with them in that straightforward manner like that,” Dill said. “And that's the way we deal with things. I really haven't thought much about it. Athletics, one thing that it does is it teaches you to move on, and that's what we did.”

The university said that a national search for Dill’s successor will begin in February or March, “affording our next president with an opportunity to participate in the process.”

As he prepares to leave Bemidji State, Dill looks back on times spent with student-athletes as some of his favorite moments.

“There's not one decision that I make that doesn't factor in how it affects our students,” Dill said. “I wanted the students’ interest to be of value to it. I wanted them to know that I cared and that I was going to be there for them. And I have tried to live that as my motto, even all the way through.”

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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