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Behind the Desk: Steve Thompson

Behind the Desk: Steve Thompson
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 Eureka College Athletic Director Steve Thompson.
Thompson has more than a decade of experience working in college athletics, ranging from game administration to coaching to his current role as athletic director. Thompson arrived at Eureka in 2014 and since then has helped oversee numerous facility renovations at Eureka including the Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena and Convocation Center.
You began your career in game event and facilities, why did you transition towards the Athletic Director role?
"After a brief stint coaching men's basketball, I really got into the facility management and event management aspect of college athletics. As I was able to grow into that field I was given a variety of opportunities in other aspects of athletics. I really believe when you are involved with game management and facilities you have to have a great understanding of the other areas in college athletics to do your job successfully. That provided me the opportunity to be involved with fundraising, marketing, recruiting, and other critical areas of intercollegiate athletics and how it can help support the institution's mission. Ultimately those experiences, and my experience as a student-athlete at the Division III Level always drove my desire to return to Division III as an Athletic Director."
What does it mean for you to be an Athletic Director? What are your goals?
"It really is an honor to be the Director of Athletics at Eureka College. I am filling shoes of Eureka Legends such as Doc Traister, (a long time Eureka AD) and Ralph McKinzie (Ronald Reagan's Football Coach and former AD). My goal is to ultimately provide our coaches and student-athletes the opportunities to be successful both on and off the court during their time at Eureka. The character traits learned through competitive sports are hard to duplicate but are great tools for success. I, along with our tremendous staff, are constantly working with our student-athletes to equip them with these tools. I really try to use my platform to help our student-athletes grow into the best versions of themselves. Ultimately what I like most about my role are the relationships I have had the opportunity to build with all of our constituency groups."
From the men's and women's basketball programs success last year to the recent growth and development of men's soccer, volleyball, and softball; what does it mean to the athletic department and the campus as a whole to have programs being competitive and successful?
"It has been great to see the progress our teams have made, finally culminating in our first SLIAC Championship last year. It has been really exciting to see our students connect and then motivate each other to keep doing well. There is a great culture of support that has started to create some great home field advantages. As these programs succeed they set higher standards for themselves but also for their peers in other sports and that attitude is really contagious across campus. As our coaches and student-athletes succeed it really helps the perception of Eureka. Students, especially in Central Illinois, begin to see a school where they can continue to compete in their sport(s) and also get a great education. That same competitive spirit between our students is also embodied in our coaches and that drives them to work a little harder."
A couple of years ago the school renovated the basketball gym, why was that move important for the school?
"The gym was a great project and really has been the centerpiece of our resurgence. It was huge for our students. We took a facility that was very hard to recruit to, had a bad arrangement for any sort of home court advantage and created a phenomenal arena that was setup up with our student-athletes competing and our students in the stands both in mind. It really is a great place to watch a game. It was huge for our student-athletes because it really gave them a place that was second to none on our campus. It also became evident to them that the administration, alumni, and fans really cared about their experience. So many people stepped up to make that project happen, it really was a great team effort from the administration all the way down to the students."

Why did you decide to move on from Kent State, a Division I school in your home state, to Eureka College?
"The move from Kent State to Eureka was definitely a hard one. I was about 30 minutes from where I grew up, had a young family, but as a former Division III student-athlete I had always wanted to return to this level. Eureka provided me that opportunity and we haven't looked back since. I have been able to surround myself with a tremendous staff, and along with the student-athletes it really feels more like a family. It has been great for my two kids (Addie-5, Luke-4). They have gotten to be around some great young people who will have a lifelong impact on them. It really is a tremendous family environment and exactly what I was looking for in a Division III school. Ultimately, I am a huge believer in the Division III model and how this model, of real STUDENT-athletes, creates tremendous young men and women. That opportunity to have a great impact on the lives of students and to see them grow is the reason I wanted to make the move."
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