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President Ferguson’s Email to the BSU Community Announcing Mark Sandy

Paul Ferguson Ball State

President Ferguson is so excited. And he just can’t hide it.

A loyal friend of the Pylon has sent along Ball State President Paul Ferguson’s email message to the Ball State community distributed this morning. He’s excited.

January 8, 2015

Colleagues in the Ball State Community:

There is much excitement in the air as we begin a new academic semester. We added to that excitement this morning as we introduced Mark Sandy as Ball State’s new director of intercollegiate athletics. He was selected from a talented pool of candidates following a nationwide search. I am especially appreciative to the AD Search Committee, led by Dr. Charlene Alexander, for the diligent and highly professional conduct of the search in providing this unanimous recommendation.

Mark has nearly 40 years of experience in intercollegiate athletics, and since 2005, he has served as the director of athletics at Eastern Kentucky University, where he was responsible for all athletic department activities, including NCAA compliance, hiring coaches, strategic planning, marketing and public relations, and fundraising. He understands the invaluable connections among departments at a university and has shown a great ability to forge alliances across campus. With his proven record of success of student-athletes in the classroom and in competition at Eastern Kentucky, Mark will be a great addition to the Ball State team.

During two of his last three years as director of athletics, EKU won the coveted Ohio Valley Conference Commissioner’s Cup, a symbol of overall athletics excellence in conference-sponsored championships.

Before arriving at Eastern Kentucky, he worked for five years at the University of Richmond as associate athletic director and senior associate athletic director. In the latter role, he directed the Spider Athletic Initiative, a $20 million campaign to build an on-campus stadium for the university’s football, soccer, lacrosse, and track teams.

I am confident that Mark is the right person to keep our athletics program continuing in its positive trajectory. I know you will welcome Mark, and his wife, Kitty, as great additions to our leadership team.

With best regards,

Paul W. Ferguson

It’s never official until the new boss sends an email out to the rest of the staff about a new hire, so mark it down. In my experience there’s also some sort of potluck or brown bag lunch, but admittedly this email probably went to way too many people for that. People would bring Tupperware, the lids would get all mixed up, it would be anarchy.

Press conference for the official introduction at 11 on BallStateSports.com.

New Ball State Athletic Director Mark Sandy has a Tough Task

BSULogoThis morning at 11am, Ball State will announce Mark Sandy as the newest Director of Athletics for BSU, as we broke last night (not to toot our own horn or anything). The last two athletic directors hired by BSU have been a study in dichotomy, one becoming the driving force of Cardinal athletics bringing themselves into the 21st century and the other the butt of more than a few jokes. Bill Scholl was the former, Tom Collins the latter, in case you were struggling with that evaluation. Try and keep up.

So with the university batting .500 in its two most recent AD hires and this being the first significant hire made by Dr. Paul Ferguson, new BSU president, it’s safe to say that high levels of success, while expected, are far from guaranteed. Replacing Bill Scholl, who was universally well-liked and personable from student athletes to high dollar donors, is also not the easiest thing in the world. To increase Cardinal successes on the field or court, one of the most important bullet point in the job description, isn’t the easiest thing either. Then throw in the aggravating circumstance of the operating budget and fan support of a MAC program and it’s a tall order. So it’s safe to say that hiring Mark Sandy, current athletic director of Eastern Kentucky University, is an absolutely critical decision and one that brings with it a whole host of issues for Sandy.

On the revenue program side of things, there’s a football program that aside from a rough 2014 is at a level that is satisfactory but the jump to the next level and retaining Pete Lembo will be a massive undertaking. There’s a men’s basketball program that was able to hire an assistant coach from a “name brand” program in James Whitford for the complex reconstruction job that has begun its bumpy road. Women’s basketball is a MAC contender year in and year out. That doesn’t take in to account all the other sports again that may not generate a ton of headlines but are notable programs. Softball, field hockey, volleyball, etc. are all programs that need to be tended to as well and supported en masse for Ball State to be significantly more competitive for the Reese and Jacoby Awards. (Note: The Reese Award is given to the most successful men’s athletic program and the Jacoby Award to the most successful women’s athletic program. In 2014 BSU finished 5th for the Reese Award and last for the Jacoby Award)

From his EKU bio regarding his successes as Colonel AD….

EKU Athletics Under Mark Sandy
• Women’s soccer begins play
• EKU Athletics Hall of Fame initiated

• Jacob Korir finishes seventh at NCAA Cross Country Championships
• Men’s basketball advances to NCAA tournament

• Football ranked first in OVC and Commonwealth of Kentucky in NCAA APR (academic progress rate) report
• Football advances to NCAA FCS playoffs for the first time in 10 years

• Women’s tennis wins first ever OVC championship and advances to NCAA tournament
• Football reaches NCAA FCS playoffs for second straight season

• Men’s tennis advances to first ever NCAA tournament
• 100 Years Celebration for football and men’s basketball

• EKU captures OVC Female Athlete of the Year and Steve Hamilton Sportsmanship awards
• Cross Country teams win fifth straight OVC titles

• EKU wins first ever OVC Commissioner’s Cup (began in 2009)
• EKU Athletics Hall of Fame Room completed

• EKU captures OVC Institutional Sportsmanship Award
• Men’s basketball won a program record 25 games, including a first round game in the CIT postseason tournament
• Women’s golf advances to first ever NCAA regional championship

• EKU wins second OVC Commissioner’s Cup in last three years
• Men’s cross country finishes 15th at NCAA championships

So take a quick cruise above and you’ll notice that there is a consistent and steady improvement across the board. There are facilities improvements, program creation, and all-sport conference success. There’s significant successes in creating a higher profile in the monster programs of basketball and football. And perhaps the thing that no one will mention, much like Ball State competing for eyeballs and interest from IU, Purdue, and Notre Dame fans, Sandy was able to do all of the above with the University of Kentucky’s deathstar athletic program right down the road.

I’m not a fan of the term “homerun hire” because largely every rose has its share of thorns. Poison taught me that. But this is about as close to that as you’re going to find for the Mid-American Conference and Ball State. We’ll be back after the presser at 11 for some other Sandy related goodies.

BREAKING: Sources: Ball State’s New AD Coming from the OVC

Mark Sandy

Eastern Kentucky’s Mark Sandy, the next man up in Muncie for the BSU AD job if sources are to be believed

Admittedly, most things around Ball State when it comes to searches and athletics have more holes in them than the Iraqi Navy, but the current vacancy for the director of athletics has been as tight-lipped as they come. Even your friendly neighborhood blogger has had a hard time tracking down enough viable and credible people who could at least give me the same answers as others have, complicated further by the fact that none were willing to go on the record largely because none of them were authorized to speak about the results of the search.

If our multiple unrelated sources are to be believed (and they usually are based on our/their track record) the new athletic director to be named Thursday in an 11am news conference in Muncie will be the current Director of Athletics at Eastern Kentucky University, Mark Sandy.

UPDATE: Another unconnected high-ranking university source has confirmed our earlier report that Mark Sandy will be named the next director of athletics at Ball State.

In his nine years at EKU, Sandy has had an impressive track record of success on the field/court/playing surface of your choosing for his teams and student athletes, most notably winning the Ohio Valley Conference’s Commissioner’s Cup, which symbolizes overall athletics excellence. His background also has a touch of MAC in it, as he was the former associate AD for marketing and major gifts at Miami University, and not for nothing, but those two areas are pretty important when it comes to BSU. Not for nothing, but Sandy also has served on the NCAA Football Issues Committee and NCAA Football Championship Committee for those who may have demanded that the new AD be a football guy. Surprisingly enough a very notable “football guy” was much closer than some would have thought before this whole thing started, but that is for another day.

Perhaps the best bullet points on Sandy’s resume are his infrastructure achievements and facility improvements. From new playing surfaces to fan amenities like video boards and audio systems are things he’s overseen, in addition to construction efforts like tennis complexes and locker room facilities and multipurpose construction on the football stadium. There’s also the academic side of things if you care to be bothered by the “student” in “student-athlete” where 10 of Sandy’s EKU teams scored perfect on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Report last year.

For all intents and purposes it appears like Sandy was custom-made for the Ball State job, as the initiatives he undertook at EKU are remarkably parallel to what former AD Bill Scholl did while he was running the show in Muncie. I can’t imagine the learning curve or next brass ring to grab for infrastructure would be beyond his reach as he’s been planning that on his own campus. He’s also a former student-athlete himself as a basketball and baseball player at Concord College in West Virginia so the empathy and connectivity that Scholl and interim AD Brian Hardin were known for, and what former AD Tom Collins was most definitely not, is something at which Sandy should excel.

They say that the most honest reviews are those from your peer group, and another OVC AD that I reached out to told me that Sandy is one of the best guys he knows in the business and it be a shame for EKU and the OVC to lose him. So that, to me, speaks volumes about the quality of the hire that BSU may have made.

Is this carved in stone? No. But, as I’ve said from time to time when we get things like Brady Hoke leaving, Pete Lembo being hired, or other goings on, we don’t run things we aren’t at least better than 50% comfortable with. So could these sources be trying to roger us? Sure, it’s possible, but there’s no particular reason why they would. We are pretty nice people and are moms think we are just the best.

This still isn’t carved in stone, but whomever the stone etcher in Muncie is is sharpening his chisel.