former coach as new AD
Havre Daily News Sports Editor
For Dave Gantt it was a no-brainer. He looked at his current job with Montana State University in Bozeman and he looked at the possibility of becoming the athletic director at MSU-Northern and his decision was an easy one.
Northern Chancellor Alex Capdeville announced this morning that Gantt has accepted the athletic director position, replacing Byron Ophus, who resigned in the spring.
Out of 30 applicants, Gantt was the first and only candidate brought to the Northern campus for an interview. After the process, there was little doubt among the search committee and Capdeville that Gantt was the man for the job.
"We're very excited about bringing Dave in," Capdeville said. "He brings to Northern some history, having been a coach here. He understands northeastern Montana and rural committees. He understands how to manage athletics. He brings great ability to understand all the aspects that are needed in this job."
To say that Gantt is experienced is a mild understatement. He brings more than 20 years of working in athletics. After coaching and teaching at the high school level for eight years, he came to Havre to coach the Northern volleyball team in 1988-89, earning conference coach of the year honors.
He left Northern to become an assistant coach on the USA men's national volleyball team that competed all over the world in international competitions. In 1991, he was the head coach at Oregon State and then moved to Montana State where he coached the Bobcat volleyball team for the next nine seasons, becoming the winningest coach in school history.
In 2002, Gantt retired from coaching and moved to an administrative position within the MSU athletics department. As the senior associate athletic director for external operations, he helped coordinate the athletics department's operations with other facets of the campus and community. For most people, Gantt's current job would have been a good place to stay until retirement. But the challenge of rebuilding and restructuring the Northern athletics department beckoned.
"My job at MSU-Bozeman was a solid situation," Gantt said. "Any time you are in a good position and you begin to look at other opportunities, there is always a little consternation as to whether or not you can make it work. But you put all those pieces together and it's a no-brainer for me."
Gantt will not only hope to bring some change to the program but also to his job. It will be the first time that the Northern athletic director will be a full-time position. In the past, it has always been a part-time position held by a member of the faculty.
"In the past, we've had a lot of folks who have had this job on the side and it wasn't their primary responsibility," Capdeville said. "We've never really had a full-time athletics director at this institution. I think the coaches are seeking that type of leadership. By having a person that is solely responsible for athletics, we can provide that leadership while also managing the fund-raising and tying it all together. Dave is going to do that."
Since he has no other responsibilities besides athletics, expect to see Gantt out promoting the teams and the department across the Hi-Line.
"I'll have a cup of coffee in Chinook one day, a cup of coffee in Chester the next and down to Big Sandy the next," he said. "I'll be in downtown Havre having lunch on a consistent basis, so the people that want to know can ask. I need to be out. I need to be visible. I need to spread the word a little. You'll find my office door open a lot, but me not in it."
With his focus solely on bettering the athletics department, Gantt hopes to coordinate and organize every aspect. He will meet with coaches soon to start working on plans for the future.
"I need to have a little heart-to-heart conversation and maybe banter about some philosophical things," Gantt said. "This isn't one-directional. Those are bright people that coach here, so for me to go in there and tell them how it's going be isn't a great management tool. They have strong opinions and strong ideas and a wealth of experience in the way they operate. I am not here to create more problems. I'm here to help solve them."
Gantt believes his past coaching experience is big benefit when it comes to dealing with the respective coaches and their desires.
"I wouldn't want to do this job without having had that experience," Gantt said. "It's very difficult for an athletics administrator to have not competed and/or coached. First of all, you don't have a sense of what the student athletes are going through, which is an absolute must. Second of all, if you have not coached, you have no idea what the coach is going through and how you manage people and get them to trust if you haven't sat in their seat."
Gantt's immediate agenda is finding a replacement for recently resigned wrestling coach David Ray. He will assume control of the search committee and hopes to have a new coach soon.
"The A-one priority is finding a wrestling coach," he said. "And that will begin as soon as I get in my car and start heading south. We're going to move that along quickly. That's a national caliber program that needs to stay right where it is and have every opportunity to win a national championship every year."
Further down the road, Gantt's goal is to change the culture of the athletics department in his first year.
"The best thing we could accomplish is that I have defined what the culture of the department is all about and how inclusive it will be to the rest of the campus and the community," he said. "We need to raise friends and keep doing a nice job with the friends we have."
Perhaps the biggest goal Gantt faces is the challenge of fund-raising for the program. In the past, the athletics department has been somewhat divided in fund-raising, with each program generating money for itself. Gantt hopes to consolidate and coordinate that process.
"The end that we're after is the organization that allows us to go to each of our corporate people and boosters one time," he said. "One time to ask for money and a whole bunch of times to say thank you. We don't want them running for the backroom every time they see us coming."