What does an Athletic Director Really Do?

UConn athletic director Warde Manuel. (AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb)

We asked athletic director Ray Tanguay to explain what his job really entails.

When I was in High School in the mid-eighties, I ran cross country and track. I knew my coach, but had no idea we had an athletic director, and definitely had no idea what he did.

Since every high school in our state has an athletic director, and their jobs are very important, I decided this was a good time and place to discuss most of the responsibilities of the Athletic Director.

The job is a year- long process and never really ends. There is no question that AD’s perform their duties because they love sports, their schools, and of course, their athletes.

Over the summer, AD’s must obtain certificates of insurance for all off-site locations and practice sites. The gym, weight room, locker rooms, showers, playing fields and practice equipment must be inspected for safety and overall condition.

Athletic storage areas must be cleaned and organized. All football, baseball, and softball equipment such as pads, catcher’s equipment, helmets, etc., must be sent out to be reconditioned, sanitized and inspected.

Budgets must be prepared for bussing, officials, jerseys, equipment, security, etc. Fundraising activities need to be organized and scheduled as well. In this economy, the budget process is a real balancing act.

Inventory is next on the list, all of the athletic equipment, jerseys, practice and training aides, etc., must be accounted for. Fall schedules must be completed, finalized, and inputted into the CIAC website.

Verifying sport physical expiration dates with the school nurse is also a priority, as no athlete can participate without a current physical on file. When you consider a school of 700 students, this task is huge, especially when the incoming freshman physical forms coming in at the same time. The school nurse and athletic director spend many days updating student files during the summer.

The AD is then required to ensure that the proper participation and emergency forms are on file with the coach of every team for every player. This critical form is crucial if emergency services and the medics are called on site.

The school website must be updated for any summer weight training sessions, opening day for summer football, and the first day for fall sports as well.

All orders for game balls, jerseys, transportation, and officials are placed during the summer as well. Athletic Trainers have to be scheduled. The gym floor needs to have the refinishing scheduled ahead of time for basketball season.

Now comes the coaching staff, the AD and business office must meet to review each staff member’s coaching permit, cpr/first aid card, and concussion certificate. Any coach without the listed credentials are not allowed to coach per state law.

If a new coach has to be hired, the AD must post the information to the local newspapers and school website. All interested candidates must have their credentials in place and verified before hiring, and after the resumes have been inspected and the interviews are completed, the chosen candidate must go thru a security check before they are allowed to start coaching student-athletes.

A coaches’ meeting is then held with the new staff members to ensure school and CIAC rules and policies are enforced consistently throughout the school.

As the end of the summer approaches, the ordered equipment must be checked in and inventoried. Some game date changes need to be made to accommodate any changes in the school calendar.

Once the school year starts, the AD needs to schedule the “coaches meeting” to review school and CIAC policy, changes in individual sport rules, field and gym scheduling, etc. The AD is also responsible that the school is in compliance with all Sport Equity and Title-9 laws.

The AD is also responsible for compliance of all athletes and coaches with the CIAC rules. (Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which is the governing body for most high schools in our state).

The AD must coordinate the CIAC and school required Pre-Season Parent-Athlete-Coach Meeting. This is where the parents, athletes, coaches, and AD get together to discuss the school academic-athletic policy, rules changes in the sport, parent and student expectations, fan behavior, etc.

Before the date of the first contest, the AD must enter into the CIAC website information about every single player, including: date of birth, sport, level of play, year they entered high school, jersey number and position on the court/field.

The AD must also arrange for the “support staff”. These are the in-house staff members that work the score clock, track the book, charge admission, collect tickets, and act as security at the games. For bigger games and night games, police presence is sometimes required.

For the fields, AD’s have to coordinate field mowing, field maintenance, and painting of the lines for the football, field hockey, and soccer fields. It is not unusual for an AD to sweep and mop the gym floor, paint the soccer and football lines, rake the infield for baseball and softball. They are even known to pass the vacuum around if the maintenance staff is behind schedule.

AD’s must attend and evaluate their coaches during game and practice conditions. AD’s often have to be at the games to act as security, book keeper, timer, etc. if someone scheduled should call in sick.

Throughout the season, the AD needs to meet with the Booster Club, Alumni Association, Student Council, Grid-Iron Club, etc., to ensure that all of these vital organizations to our sports program remain in compliance with all school, district, Sport Equity and Title-9 Laws.

In case of a weather postponement of a game, the AD now needs to reschedule the following (normally in the middle of a class) – busses, officials, trainers, book keepers, timers, ticket sellers, security, field lining, police, change the school and CIAC website, concession stand people, verify field and replacement officials availability, and update the school athletic phone line as well.

The fall Homecoming Dance needs to be scheduled, tickets printed and sold, DJ ordered, recruiting chaperones, voting sheets for king and queen, security, etc. must be organized.

On occasion, miscommunication between the athlete, parent, and coach will happen, and it is the responsibility of the AD to arrange a meeting with all four parties to resolve the issue at hand. Luckily, most of these meetings are resolved rather quickly.At the end of every game, the AD needs to inspect the field, gym, and locker rooms to verify that everything is in good working order, nothing was left behind, and the facility is ready for the next school day.

On a monthly basis, the AD organizes the Athlete of the Month selection by obtaining nominations from the coaches, and then having a vote by the coaches to select the male and female Athlete of the Month.

When grades are posted, the AD must meet with guidance to verify that every athlete is in compliance with the school and CIAC standards in passing grades. Any students found in violation with any inappropriate grades must be removed from the team roster.

At the end of the season, the AD must now organize post-season play. The scheduling process starts all over again, but normally on a much faster time frame. (within one to two days, and sometimes over a holiday weekend)

The end of season banquets needs to be organized. Trophies and food need to be ordered, certificates must be printed and signed, varsity letters and pins need to be distributed to players. Speeches must be written, senior gifts must be ready to go by awards night. This information must be given to the players and their families via phone calls, morning announcements, and the school website.

The fall coaches now need to be evaluated for their performance during the season with written and verbal confirmation.

Any student receiving All-State or Senior All-Star status normally has a special banquet that the AD attends with the athlete, their family, and the coach.

The AD must meet with guidance to select the CIAC Scholar Athlete and the US Army Scholar Athlete. Each organization has a standard that must be met before a candidate is selected. Once selected, the AD must arrange dinner arrangements for the state wide banquet in May.

AD’s must attend monthly league meetings, in which many of us have additional responsibilities such as individual sport chairpeople, league schedules, sportsmanship award programs, league presidents, treasurers, secretaries, etc. The AD’s are now required to run the League All-Star Meetings where the coaches nominate their best players and the voting begins.

At the end of the fall season, the AD is given the schedule for the next fall season. In most cases, the schedule is not full, so the AD must “fill in” the remainder of the games by contacting other schools by email, phone, or internet postings to schedule the remaining games.

The AD, with the business office, must monitor the payments of officials, busses, support staff, and the trainers. This involves signing for services rendered, track payments on a spreadsheet, and follow up with the business office to ensure payments on time.

Most AD’s attend a two day state wide AD conference in March to update themselves on the new rules and regulations from the CIAC, check out new products to help our student athletes, and learn the new coaching class for the year.

When the AD’s go back to their schools, we are now certified to teach the new three hour coaching class to our coaches in our buildings. Coaches are required by state law to take a three hour class every year to maintain their coaching certificates, and the AD’s normally teach this class. The AD’s must inform the coaches of the new rules and regulations that are coming for the next school year.

The AD’s and guidance work together to remain current with current NCAA Academic Guidelines for students. AD’s need to write letters of recommendation for their athletes, as well as working with the high school coaching staff to make contact with college coaches to help the transition from high school to college athletics.

Now it is time to start winter sport sign-ups, verify physical expiration dates, and the whole process starts over again, except now we deal with snow, blizzards, and icing conditions. Before you know it, the spring season is right around the corner . . .same process, all over again.

All of this is done while the AD’s teach their classes, coach, and maintain some time for their families.

Every time the busses arrive as scheduled, a game starts on time, a team wins, an athlete achieves All-League or All-State status, an AD is smiling with a sense of relief and pride. After all, AD’s do this job for the kids.

When you see your AD, tell them “thanks” for all that they do, and most importantly, enjoy the game!

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