Schuckman: Intriguing possibilities abound, but hiring athletic director to move needle and push QHS forward needs to be priority

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QUINCY — Over the past 20 years, the Quincy High School athletic department has been led by four different directors who each previously had been a coach at some level within the school district.

Will the next athletic director have a similar background?

Wednesday night, the Quincy School Board approved Superintendent Todd Pettit’s recommendation that Matt McClelland be named the next director of the West Central Region Education for Employment System and Quincy Area Vocational Technical Center.

McClelland has spent the past three years as the Quincy High School athletic director as part of a 20-year career in the Quincy system. He served as the Blue Devils’ cross country and track and field coach for eight years prior to becoming the athletic director.

McClelland succeeded Scott Douglas as athletic director in 2021. Douglas, a 1983 QHS graduate who was a three-sport student-athlete, served as an assistant coach in football, basketball and baseball at various levels within the QHS system. He is now the district’s transportation director.

Prior to Douglas, Bill Sanders spent eight years as the athletic director after Max Miller manned the office for four years. Sanders served as the QHS boys and girls soccer coach before moving into administration, while Miller coached football at all levels and basketball at the junior high and freshman levels before becoming an administrator.

So who follows suit?

There are some intriguing people with similar backgrounds whose names have been thrown around as potential candidates. None have officially applied and the school had yet to post the opening on any job boards as of Wednesday night.

The name brought up more than any other is Andy Douglas, currently in his 10th season as the QHS boys basketball coach. Douglas is a QHS graduate, served as an assistant coach before getting a chance to be the head coach at Liberty and returned to his alma mater in 2014.

He has interest in eventually becoming an administrator — he is currently a physical education teacher at the high school — but with the Blue Devils in the postseason and a talented crew returning next year, is the time right to make a move?

School policy states administrators cannot be head coaches, and with his son playing at the junior high level, would Douglas want to miss out on the chance to coach him? Would he be ready to give up coaching in general?

Ron Bridal would be another name to consider. The QHS boys soccer coach was interested in the athletic director position when it opened in 2021, but like Douglas, he has plenty of reasons to stay at the helm of the soccer program.

Not only do the Blue Devils have a talented corps of underclassmen, but Bridal’s son will be part of the program beginning next fall. The opportunity to share the field with his son would be difficult to pass up.

Rick Little’s name comes up in administrative discussions, and he currently serves as a dean of students at the high school. Much like Douglas and Bridal, why give up a good thing with the opportunity to share the field with your son?

In Little’s case, his oldest son, Bradyn, is the Blue Devils’ record-setting quarterback and has another year left. His younger son, Bryson, is playing at the junior high level and will be part of the QHS program in the near future.

An intriguing possibility is Kelley Lawson. The former Quincy University basketball player currently serves as a dean of students at the high school and is a fixture as an administrator at athletic events. She and her husband, QHS baseball coach Rick Lawson, have three sons involved in sports, but she would bring an interesting viewpoint and new ideas to the table.

Could Rick Owsley, who is currently the assistant principal of student services and athletic director at Quincy Junior High School, have interest in moving to the high school? What about Dan Sparrow, a former QHS student-athlete and QPS administrator who is the athletic director at Liberty? Or maybe Kirk Mosley, a physical education teacher at Baldwin Elementary School who has had previous interest in athletic administration?

There also is a strong possibility the search goes outside the district to inject some blood into the process.

No matter who applies, the job is taxing and demanding. To better serve the student-athletes and the coaches, the administration needs to not only look at hiring a new athletic director, but creating an assistant athletic director position in the process.

Overseeing 19 varsity sports and other activities is challenging, especially going at it alone. When additional responsibilities are added to the job, such as performing teacher evaluations, it makes it a much less desirable position.

That might negate any or all in-house candidates from applying.

With the success of the athletic department surging — look at the fervor generated by the football and boys and girls basketball programs this year — the administration cannot get this hire wrong. It has to seize the moment, look to the future and hire accordingly.

It’s time to move the needle, and only a smart hire can do that.

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