You may have seen them on the sidelines, in the stands, or heading off to meetings; but what does an athletic director really do? This summer, on each Friday, we will take you behind the desk with the heads of the athletic departments from St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference member institutions. This week's interview is with MacMurray College Athletics Director Justin Fuhler.
Fuhler began his career in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 2011 as an assistant coach with the MacMurray College baseball team before taking over head coaching duties, where he earned SLIAC Coach of the Year honors in 2015. Fuhler then moved into the role of Athletics Director in the summer of 2015 and recently announced his return to the baseball field as Highlander head coach.
In just five years you rose from assistant baseball coach to athletic director, can you talk about the moves that got you to that position and why you were interested in assuming the A.D. role?
"I don't' think I did anything intentionally to put myself in a position to become the Athletic Director. When I was the baseball coach I worked very hard to make the experience a positive one for the players. I pushed the players to do well on the field, perform in the classroom, and be productive members of our campus. I would like to think people noticed how hard I worked and that is why I got the job as the Athletic Director when it came open. My interest in becoming the A.D. was natural in my opinion as I think everyone should want to progress through their career. I believed I could do some great things for the athletic department as a whole and I am very proud of what we have accomplished during my time as A.D. so far"
MacMurray recently purchased a building with the goal of adding classrooms and a weight room back on campus. What does this move mean for MacMurray?
"I believe this addition is vital to the college and the athletic department. As a college, I think it is important to control your surroundings and by purchasing Franklin School, which is right across the street from our campus, we ensure that we can do what we need to do with that space. As an athletic department, it is a monumental step as it gives us the space to add a weight room, provide additional practice areas for our teams, and gives us room to expand if we decide it is in our best interest to add sports in the future."
MacMurray College has won the SLIAC/SAAC Challenge all four years since its inception. Why has the school embraced this award and what does it mean to win it?
"Our students, and specifically our SAAC students, have really taken the lead and they take a lot of pride in the fact that we have won this award four years in a row. Coach Doerfler and I are busy so our students have really taken the lead as it relates to the service award. They organize service events on their own and publicize them so our students are aware of them and attend. While the trophies and accolades are nice, the fact that our students are giving back so much to the Jacksonville community is the really cool part of this award."
You have added wrestling and will be adding cross country next year, why did you decide to add these athletic programs and what other goals do you have for the athletic department?
"History played a factor in bringing both of these sports back to MacMurray. We had wrestling for almost 50 years before it was eliminated and we used to have a cross country program as well. By adding these sports it helps us expand our department and reconnect with hundreds of alumni who connect to the college through the sport that they used to play. The other factor was enrollment. With higher education becoming more and more competitive every year, we are constantly looking at a way to attract students to MacMurray. I believe athletics is a tremendous draw for prospective student-athletes and certain sports allow us to expand our footprint across the country."
How would you describe MacMurray to someone you just met?
"We use a catch phrase around our campus and on social media of MacFam, but it is so true. I don't know the reason but our students live the slogan of MacFam. Just like a family we argue sometimes but we all pull for one another. This is especially true within our athletic department as our teams always come out and support the other teams. We pull for each other and want to see everyone succeed. I have worked at three other colleges before coming to MacMurray and it is just different here (in a good way). We truly are a family."