One-on-One with Kathy Beauregard

Shortly after announcing that she had hired Steve Hawkins as the next head coach for the Broncos men's basketball team, WMU Athletic Director Kathy Beauregard sat down to talk with Broncos Illustrated. Kathy talked about the decision making process that led to her hiring Coach Hawkins, about the involvement of the student athletes within the community and she talked about the state of WMU athletics in this fiscally challenging times among other things.

Kathy, could you talk about the decision making process that you went about and what made you finally choose Coach Hawkins?

"It was very obvious early on that I was very familiar, obviously with Coach Hawkins and believed that Coach McCullum made an excellent hire when he hired Coach Hawkins to come in. With the amount of head coaching experience he had at the Division Two level and also at Quincy College his team had represented in the NCAA Tournament three different times. Basically we were very familiar with him, felt very early on that it was the choice of the student athletes to continue under his leadership. Talked to them and other people about let's try to take some of the emotional away. Obviously it's tough, Coach Mac just left and interviewed the student athletes. Interviewed many people that were involved in the program and read a lot of letters and a lot of input and on Broncos Illustrated. Really what people were saying and talking and I did get several responses also from individuals that have played for Coach Hawkins at Quincy College. Obvious to me I think most importantly, we've got a great group of young men here. We've got a lot of momentum moving forward and Coach Hawkins has been a big part of that along with Coach McCullum. The consistency there, being able to put somebody in that has been here and wants it and has believed in it and wants to continue on the momentum and enthusiasm that we've had in the program. And that he and his wife really do believe strongly in the Broncos and Kalamazoo. It became apparent to me that I made a recommendation to President Litynski that I felt we were going to do an internal process here. I hadn't talked to anybody formally outside other than talking to people that called me regarding and checking a bunch of references. So, obviously I compared what we had with Steve to what I thought was out there and definitely came up with the decision that we got. We've got our guy right here."

You were talking about you even read the comments over on Broncos Illustrated. It seems like there's one student athlete who played for Coach Hawkins at Quincy who posted on that site. It seems like anybody who's played for Coach Hawkins really has nothing but good things to say about him.

"I think that's absolutely true. I kept really talking about this that we were kind of going about this in a little bit of a backwards way where we knew what we had in Coach Hawkins and I really thought we could handle this through an internal promotion. But I really wanted to also check references on other people out there. Not talk with them directly, not do formal interviews but just really see what we had out there to compare him with. It was amazing how much the support that there really has been and the quality of the experience. When Steve talks about getting to class and representing the university and this community and graduating and winning and getting to the tournaments we have the same vision moving forward. I have no doubt under his leadership that we will continue to do that."

One thing that you have started to make a habit of here at Western Michigan is that you tend to hire the right coaches for each sports team. Meaning they focus on the student athlete on their schoolwork. We have a football team that finished in the top nine among their graduation rate in the country. How do you do it?

"Well that's a good question too. I don't know sometimes. But I think the really important thing to me is that I think that we within our department have talked long and hard about working within the university admission and the quality of student athlete life and experience. We talk a lot about community involvement. That's really been my vision, my goals, objectives from the very beginning even back to when I was coaching and involved from that aspect. It's important to me that you really do take the time to find the right fit and every hiring is different. This was very different from the last process of when we hired Coach McCullum. You kind of have to really explore what's important and there are times, to be very honest with you, I'm not very proud of some of what's happening to our Intercollegiate athletics world across the country. It bothers me when you see some of the stories and some of the ethical decisions and NCAA violations, those kinds of things. I don't think there's any doubt that our staff knows how important doing things right and representing us and looking at all of those pieces. Obviously we want to win. Our goals are to win. But, really you can win with the quality of your kids and the chemistry you get there too. So every time we hire it's very different. I look to guests for input, I involve my entire staff, involved all the student athletes and felt really good about as many people letting me know how they feel and sitting back and listening to that. If you want people to be involved with the program I think that's really important to listen. Can't always, and I told the team that, I said, "I can't guarantee you that this is going to come out exactly the way you want." One of the things that really meant the most to me is most of them turned to me and said, "we trust you in this process." That meant a lot and it's a big part of what we do here."

You're talking about the quality of the athletes and stuff. We had a football team that won the STAR Award for their community involvement. Volunteering with the Habitat for Humanity, stuff like that. We have a new basketball coach that's talking about recruiting quality athletes with personality. To me it seems the coaches that we have in place, new coaches that come in their dreams and goals for this university is to set the bar higher for future student athletes.

"I think that's very true. There's no doubt that obviously I think that people know that I'm born and raised here in Kalamazoo, love Western Michigan. I spent my entire career here coaching and working in athletic administration. I know this community and know this university and feel a strong tie of really trying everything possible that we can do to keep community involved, alumni involved and to really do build more on our tradition. It's important to us that the student athlete experience is good enough that when they do leave here that they want to come back and that we do have some consistency among our staff and our programs. I think when I was an associate athletic director, I did it for nine years and I worked for six and a half AD's during that time so we had a lot of transition and not necessarily consistency issues. Even though I was a part of all of that in those days I think really we've got a tremendous staff in place right now. Some exciting things happening. Obviously our softball team has had a tremendous turn around. I couldn't have been more proud. I'm sorry I haven't had a chance to get on the phone to congratulate Coach Darnell yet on the STAR Award that they have received and the community involvement. From the first day I took this job, it's neat and my personality you can't try to be somebody you're not and that's something I talk to our staff about all the time and how important that is. Believing in the goal of us coming to move our university and our community forward. There's no doubt that the athletic department is an extension of the university and an opportunity to really gain a tremendous amount of exposure. Whether it's with graduating student athletes or with student athletes playing futuristically professional or moving on into the business world."

Around the MAC there's a lot of stories like Toledo they discontinued a few sports, Bowling Green last fall discontinued a few sports. Even Marshall discontinued a couple of sports recently. What is the current state of athletics here at Western Michigan?

"Well, there is no doubt in my time here at this university I have never seen a tougher financial outlook than what we're going to be facing in the next couple years. We aren't the only ones. You're seeing it all over the country. We have been blessed over here with continued support so that we can add women's sports to our program with the addition of three new women's sports in the last six years. But there's now doubt in my mind as we move towards the next budgeting process along with the state appropriations and the commitments and all of that, that we are going to have some challenging times ahead of us. Obviously I talked very openly to the staff about that. That right now things we're going to have to tighten our belts for the next couple years. That is what the entire university is going to have to do. We're all going to have to pull our share of that. But that also doesn't mean that we don't continue our vision and our momentum forward. We may just have to do it with a little less money for a little while or those pieces of the puzzle. We obviously have not finalized our budgeting process for next year. We're in that process right now. University State Appropriations, I know Interim President Litynski is speaking tomorrow to another state of higher education appropriations group. What happens with that and what happens with the potential any of increased tuition is really going to tell us where we're going to end up when it comes down to that. But we will definitely be tightening our belts."

We were talking about the current state of athletics here at Western. The thing I was going to ask you, with the current economic climate in the Kalamazoo community. You've always said what is good for Kalamazoo is good for Western Michigan University and what's good for Western Michigan is good for Kalamazoo. Wouldn't this be the time to where the university and the community come together to help each other see more stuff like what the football team did with the Habitat?

"No doubt about that. I have chosen to live in this community my whole life and we have a pretty unsettling time out there right now. When we look at the Pfizer situation and you look at the state economy and public school systems having to reduce, obviously the universities' state is still unknown. I think we all may end up having goals and objectives together that are going to benefit this university and you're right, I came out in my first year as AD and said Western's Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo's Western and we're here. We are going to be experiencing some obviously some major financial issues, just as this community is. We have got to be and work together as one, there's no doubt and I have seen that happen over the last years when we really talked about community partnership and our student athletes are a big part of that. Our care about kids program, our opportunities to provide summer camps. Obviously the opportunities that we are going to be able to look forward to with the Seelye Center. All of those are really important parts of what we do on a daily basis and the kids getting out and reading in classrooms and graduating student athletes across the stage. It's fun with Antwan knowing that he's out of here next week for a real job in Chicago. It's an important part and I hope they can really look back at their experience here, be proud of it and want to continue to be a Bronco forever."

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