Havre Daily News Sports Editor
Working longer hours for a little more money, or attending your son's soccer games? It doesn't sound like a tough choice for most people, and for Byron Ophus there was no choice at all.
After a brief meeting with athletics department staff, Ophus announced that he is stepping down as the Montana State University-Northern athletics director to take a full-time teaching position at the school.
"I never wanted it get to where it would be a trade-off," Ophus said. "I love working with the athletes and working with the coaches and staff here, but this will give me a little more normal schedule."
In a short time within the department, he has helped it find the relative stability that was missing in the past.
"Byron was always very approachable and easy to work with on a day-to-day basis," said Lights men's basketball coach Shawn Huse. "I know he will remain very supportive of the program from the stands."
After replacing Ted Spatkowski in May of 2003, Ophus has not only run the athletics department, but also taught classes part-time in MSU-Northern's College of Technical Sciences.
However, he is on schedule to complete his Masters in Business Administration in a few weeks, which allow him to focus full-time on teaching.
"My focus all along was to be a full-time faculty member," Ophus said. "That's why I was back in school to get my MBA."
There was simply no way that Ophus could be a full-time teacher and athletics director. It was a hard enough to balance both as a part-time teach.
"It's not that it was all hard work," he said. "But you always had to be the first to be there and the last to leave. It's a lot of hours."
Consequently, Chancellor Alex Capdeville has said that Ophus' replacement duties will only be as an athletics director and won't split time in the classroom.
"We're looking for a full-time athletics director," he said.
It's something that Ophus agrees with.
"This needs to be done a little different," he said. "It really is a full-time commitment."
Capdeville said he will begin searching immediately for a replacement for Ophus and hopes to have one before the fall semester.
Ophus will continue to act as athletics director until the school finds a replacement. It's a process he hopes to assist with.
"I hope to have some input in the search and be a sounding board that the committee can use," he said. "I also would like to help with transition for whatever person they hire."
Ophus' remaining duties will be to continue a current athletics department restructuring that he has worked with Capdeville on.
Northern is looking to fill a position as facilities manager as well as coordinator for intramural activities.
The school is expecting a boost of more than 100 students living on campus next year and an intramural activity coordinator is crucial, Capdeville said.
The facilities manager position will take care the MSU-Northern gymnasium and its recreation offerings.
Both positions will be filled internally.
"I really have enjoyed working with Alex doing the things to restructure the department," Ophus said. "I really think we are making some progress."
While Ophus won't be a part of the athletics department, he will still be a big fan of Northern sports teams.
"I'm still going to have season tickets to the sports and I'll still be there in the stands cheering on the teams," he said.