Involvement stressed by new athletic director, Tom Michael


Jason Howell

Jason Howell | The Daily Eastern News 
Athletic director Tom Michael speaks briefly to the freshman and transfer students after the new student photo on Friday at O’Brien Field.

Aldo Soto, Sports Editor

Eastern’s new athletic director Tom Michael is fresh on the job after being hired on July 22, replacing Barbara Burke, and beginning his duties officially on Aug. 11.

Michael, who was the Senior Associate Athletic Director at the University of Illinois, wants to improve the student-athlete experience at Eastern.

This comes by making sure each of the 450 or so student-athletes have all the necessary tools to succeed not only on the field or court, but by also leaving Eastern with a degree, Michael said.

This is important for Michael because he wants the players from each sport to leave the university with positive things to say to possible Eastern student-athletes in the future.

“They become our best recruiters,” Michael said. “Being a former student-athlete and being in their shoes and knowing how important that experience is to the overall development of who I was is important now that I am an administrator.”

Another component Michael wants to make better is the involvement that the teams have with Eastern’s campus and the Charleston community.

“We want students to support what we’re doing in our programs and events and if we’re not out and about on campus and participating in what other folks are doing, whatever that might be, they won’t,” Michael said.

The former Illini basketball player does not want to have Eastern athletes separated from the rest of the students and said that not only will the student-athletes be more present around campus so would he and his staff.

“Our kids are going to be out there and that’s something that our staff and coaches are also going to do,” Michael. “I want folks to know that, you know, we’re not just the athletic department sitting over here doing our own thing. We have to be integrated with the campus.”

Michael was walking around campus last week, greeting students and parents. On Friday several Eastern teams received freshman and transfer students as they filled O’Brien Field to take the new student photo.

Michael said the exposure from the student-athletes has to expand to the rest of Charleston as well.

“Athletics is, in my opinion, really the front door to an institution and we could give unbelievable recognition and advertisement if you will for the institution by the success of our programs,” Michael said. “Our job is to make sure we put successful programs out there.”

The Eastern football team has won two straight Ohio Valley Conference titles and last season appeared in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs. And aside from the track and field teams winning many indoor and outdoor OVC titles and having several All-Americans other teams have not been consistently winning during the past decade.

Michael is striving for better, which in turn would make the university more known.

“We could serve, if you will, as the face and then it gets people to know the institution better and more people will know what a great place this is to earn a degree,” he said.

Aldo Soto (@AldoSoto21) can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].