There is a new face for Mary Washington athletics. In June, Ken Tyler became UMW’s second athletic director, taking over after Ed Heggman retired after 36 years in the position. Before coming to Mary Washington, Tyler worked for West Virginia Wesleyan as a head basketball coach for 17 years and an athletic director for three years.
Under his helm, West Virginia Wesleyan swept the President’s and Commissioner’s Cup for overall athletic excellence in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“It’s a special place for me, it gave me the opportunity to be an athletic director,” Tyler said.
“I’m proud of all we accomplished, it prepared me well for this opportunity.” Prior to West Virginia Wesleyan, Tyler also worked at Albright College and Shepherd University. Despite working in West Virginia for the last two decades, Tyler is originally from northern Virginia. A good basketball player, Tyler went to the College of William and Mary upon graduation where he majored in history and played basketball.
For him, playing basketball in college created a “healthy perspective of the perseverance, hard work, leadership and teamwork college athletics creates.”
Tyler, who dubbed Mary Washington “one of the best small college programs in the country,” had never visited the campus before coming for the interviews. “I was struck by the beauty of the campus and the great athletic facilities,” he said.
He was also greeted by the staff, many of whom he noted had been there for a long time. “It’s a good place to work and grow as a professional.” Tyler understands the role athletics play in the bigger picture of the school. He classifies athletes as “the front porch of the campus.” He sees athletes as ambassadors to schools we compete against. “We want to be good spokespeople and send a good message,” Tyler said.
One message he is trying to convey is “It’s a great day to be an Eagle.” He sees this year as a cornerstone for Mary Washington’s athletic program.
With the advent of the Anderson Center and improvements on the Battleground Athletic Complex, the athletic presence on campus is becoming more evident. He is fundraising whiz an important attribunte at a time when schools are allocating less money towards athletics.
During his stint at Shepherd, he spearheaded a $300,000 project to renovate Butcher Athletic Center as well as initiating a $1 million project to install turf. The corporate partner program he started at West Virginia Wesleyan is similar to what he will be trying to accomplish at UMW.
He will also try to enstate the use of a booster club to draw revenues. Day to day, he admits he is going to meetings and signing his name. But his real responsibility is “providing resources for coaches and students to be successful.”
When not in the office, Tyler is in his natural environments. “My favorite part of the day is getting out of the office and watching games or practices.” Tyler and other coaches set a goal this summer called the “Drive for 25.” Mary Washington is trying to be in the top 25 Division III schools by the end of the year. Rankings are determined by NCAA appearances and the distance teams go. Another ideal Tyler has brought to the athletic community is “23 sports, one team.” “We can work more efficiently as a group than we can individually; said Tyler. He also wants to break down the walls that had previously separated different coaching staffs. He also encourages players to say they play for Mary Washington and not at Mary Washington. This ownership creates ownership and responsibilities when they are representing the student body, faculty and alumni.” Tyler and his staff are currently undertaking a strategic planning process. He has devised four committees that will focus on improving athletics at UMW. A Recruiting and retaining committee will focus on more efficient ways to bring quality athletes to UMW and making offers and incentives that will keep them on campus and excited to participate.
The competitive excellence committee will try to find advantages in different sports and ways to become a bigger name in collegiate athletics. The student athlete experience committee will focus on individual students and will try to further fulfill their needs. The last committee, research development will look for alternate sources of revenue and fundraising projects. Their findings will be made public in December and for the next five years they will be implementing various changes to athletics department.
For now, Tyler sits in his office and focuses on daily interactions with other coaches and students. Books on leadership and teamwork line his bookshelf and three basketballs from his coaching career are on the top. He has been a student, an athlete, a coach and noow he is an athletic director a a prominet Division III school. He wants to be a planner, a coordinator and a coach but more than anything: the number-one cheerleader.