By Ronald Hanaki
At a press conference inside Koehler Fieldhouse on Tuesday, Jan. 23, ESU introduced Dr. Gary Gray as its new Director of Athletics.
Gray said, “The more I heard about the program at ESU, the more I wanted to get involved with it.”
“This program in ranked No. 16 out of 308 Division II programs,” said Gray.
“ESU’s academic success is 84%, which is 12 points above the national average in Division II,” said Gray.
“It’s a new opportunity, and I like new challenges,” said Gray.
Before coming to ESU, Gray served as the Director of Athletics at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.
Gray revealed that he was visited by former ESU Director of Athletics Josh Looney a few years ago when Looney was Associate Director for NCAA Division II.
“I know Josh really well, and I still talk to him,” said Gray.
Most recently, Gray talked to Looney at the recent national convention in Indianapolis, Ind. earlier in January.
“I talked to him about branding and those types of things,” said Gray.
“I also got an update on where ESU was financially and various parts of the program,” stated Gray.
“Look, this is serious business,” said Gray. “I am here to plan and work and help this program.”
“The key message that I want to get out is that I want to listen to anybody who wants to give me feedback on the program at any time,” said Gray.
“I want to engage anyone who wants to be engaged. If they have an interest in being heard, I want them to be heard,” said Gray.
“The more people I hear, the faster that I can learn,” stated Gray.
One of the first priorities for Gray is to come up with a new strategic plan.
“The strategic plan encompasses everything. It includes facility enhancement, scholarship growth and donor giving,” said Gray.
“I want to help raise money and help improve the facilities that are aging,” stated Gray.
“I want to involve different groups,” said Gray. “I believe in building relationships to get people engaged.”
Gray plans to have a strong presence at ESU’s athletic events.
“I plan to be at nearly every sporting event on campus,” said Gray.
Gray walked away impressed after meeting with the coaches.
“I have met most of the coaches and found them to be very engaging. They seemed genuinely interested in my style and philosophy, and I have been really impressed with them,” said Gray.
“This is a first-rate program,” stated Gray.
Gray is also a big believer in SAAC (Student-Athlete Advisory Committee).
“I always worked directly with SAAC myself. I had SAAC at my school before it was mandatory. So I totally subscribe to that,” stated Gray.
“I want to give SAAC a vote and put them on all the committees in Division II, so I anticipate a highly involved SAAC,” said Gray.
Gray is also a proponent of live-streaming ESU’s games to ESU’s legion of sports fans.
“We have to be visible by any means possible out there–radio, Internet and TV,” stated Gray.
“The alums love it, and we want that to enhance donor giving,” said Gray.
The ambitious Gray brings a wealth of experience as a teacher, coach and administrator to the position. He attended the University of New Brunswick as an undergraduate before he went on to earn his master’s degree in physical education with a focus in sports psychology at the University of Kentucky.
After graduate study at UK, Gray pursued a teaching and coaching career in Eugene, Ore. while attending the University of Oregon’s doctoral program part-time. Gray earned his doctorate in sport management from Oregon in 1984.
He then taught health and physical education and coached men’s volleyball at Montana State-Billings before he made the move to Iowa State. He directed the undergraduate and graduate sport management programs for seven years at Iowa State.
But he missed Montana and moved back to his old teaching position at Montana State-Billings.
Then in November 1994, the school’s chancellor appointed Gray as the school’s Director of Athletics. Gray served as AD for three-and-a-half years before he went back to a full-time teaching position.
In 1999, the chancellor reappointed Gray as the Director of Athletics. He served in that position until 2012. During his second tenure as AD, he created and designed the graduate sport management program and chaired the committee on health and human performance.
In 2012, Gray was looking for a new challenge. He left Montana State-Billings to become the Director of Athletics at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.
As the new AD at Alaska-Fairbanks, the university was facing a crisis. The school had already self-reported a major infraction case, and the Department of Athletics was facing a $600,000 budget crisis.
“We had to cut another $1.6 million,” stated Gray. “So it was a challenge to keep the program strong and healthy and a good experience for our student-athletes.”
“But we got through it without reducing our studentathlete scholarships, and I am very proud of that,” said Gray.
In addition to gaining invaluable experience in crisis management, Gray has extensive experience serving on national committees.
He has served on the NCAA Board of Governors and has served on the NCAA Division II Men’s Soccer Committee for four years.
Gray also served on the prestigious NCAA Division II Management Council and chaired that committee for the last year.
“The chair of the Management Council is the greatest professional council in the NCAA,” said Gray.
Gray has served and continues to serve on the commission to combat campus sexual violence.
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