Athletic Director won't stay to MARC his spot

By Will Kennedy

Like Moses, who never saw the Promised Land, Macalester Athletic Director Travis Feezell will not be around for the unveiling of that promised athletics and recreation paradise, the MARC, next August. After three years with Macalester, Feezell announced his resignation at an athletics department meeting last Monday. The outbound AD, who played a central role in bringing a new athletic facility to the college, told coaches and other staff that he had accepted an associate professorship teaching sports management and studies at Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C., for next semester.

He is the second high-profile member of the athletics department to leave the college this year-former head football coach Glenn Caruso left for St. Thomas in January.

“In some ways this has nothing to do with Mac,” Feezell said. “It’s a life shift out of athletics administration and back into the classroom.”

Feezell was previously an athletic director and professor at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., and he taught sports related courses at St. Thomas and the University of Minnesota during his tenure at Macalester.

While Feezell’s passion for the classroom was well known, few anticipated Monday’s news. “It came as a surprise,” Associate Athletic Director Vanessa Seljeskog said. “You’re always sad when someone leaves, but we certainly respect his decision to pursue that career path.”

However, practical rather than sentimental concerns will take priority in the coming weeks. Feezell’s departure pressures the college to find a replacement before the rapidly approaching fall semester. Vice President for Student Affairs Laurie Hamre, who will oversee the search, has set a target date of August 1 for hiring a new athletic director. “Certainly it would be nice to have some continuity, but people do what they have to do,” she said. “Travis’ passion is teaching.”

“I’m confident that even though this is a fast timeline, we’ll get a very good applicant pool.”

Hamre and others hope that the new athletic facility will make Macalester attractive to sports administrators looking for work. The job opening has already been posted within Macalester’s own athletic department. In a few days, the search will be publicized around the country using online newsletters, e-mails and contacts outside the college.

Hamre hopes the college will begin interviewing at the end of April; a few of the top candidates will be invited to campus around graduation on May 17.

When Feezell received the position three years ago, Hamre recalls that he was selected from about 50 applicants. Ultimately, Hamre said, it is the quality and not the quantity of the potential candidate pool and Hamre is convinced that even if the numbers are down, the college will attract some top-notch people.

If everything goes according to plan, the new facility and the new athletic director will continue to demonstrate the college’s self-proclaimed recommitment to athletics.

“We’re looking for a person who can really help our program take a step toward becoming excellent,” she said.

Excellence for the college in the sports arena would involve above 65 percent campus wide participation in athletics-including increased participation of domestic students of color and international students, and the health conscious now that Winton Health services will be housed in the MARC-and the expansion of roster sizes to ensure teams are competitive.

For his part, Feezell believes that Macalester is in a good place to take that next step. “My task was to build the foundation,” he said. “The next task will be about a more prominent place for athletics on campus.”

Over the next few weeks, Macalester will try to find just who is out there who can carry out that next task.