By Duane Cochran
For the Times West Virginian
Tim McNeely certainly won’t forget his first day on the job as Fairmont State University’s new director of athletics — April Fools Day 2013.
On this day, however, McNeely had little time to fool around.
Instead, his day was jam-packed with meetings with college administrators, members of the Falcons’ athletic coaching staffs and the media. Through it all, though, the former tournament director of the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic and former deputy director of the West Virginia Development Office remained positive and upbeat about his new and somewhat daunting task of leading FSU’s athletic department into the future.
“I wouldn’t have taken on this task or challenge if I didn’t think I’d do a good job, and I know I can,” said McNeely. “I’m excited about it. One of the things which interested me in this position was the excitement and passion that people here have for this university and its athletic department.
“There’s a master plan which is going to be unveiled here soon and I’m excited to be a part of that and to help lead the athletic department here into the future.”
The announcement of McNeely’s hiring and the subsequent dismissal of former FSU director of athletics Rusty Elliott from the position on March 21 shocked many Falcon supporters in the area. Elliott, who was employed in some capacity at the university since 1986, has declined requests for interviews from the media but was quoted in a campus-wide newsletter sent out Monday saying, “It’s time for a change and I will continue to support my alma mater and the Fighting Falcons.”
He had served as Fairmont State’s director of athletics since the summer of 2007.
McNeely knows replacing someone with Elliott’s history and stature within the community won’t be easy.
“That’s a fair question and the only fair answer is I don’t have any history there,” said McNeely. “I don’t know him. Maybe there’s a chance I’ll get to know him, but I come to the table, so to speak, sort of empty handed. I was approached about the opportunity and that opportunity was about my future versus the history of Fairmont State athletics. So I think the fair answer is there really is no answer. I’m not privy to what went on here before my arrival.
“There’s always going to be somebody to replace no matter where you go or what you do. I hope whatever it is I do and whatever I bring to the table helps continue to grow the athletic department at Fairmont State University and helps continue to showcase and spotlight Fairmont State University in the appropriate light and manner.”
McNeely also doesn’t anticipate any problems doing his new job as he sees fit to do it without outside interference.
“Absolutely, no question,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to have done a lot of things in this state and to have worked in various capacities and developed a lot of relationships around the state that I will be playing on to help me in this position. I also want to develop a lot of new relationships in this area. I think that’s very important.
“We’re going to work very hard and we’re going to do the right things and do them the right way. The most important thing and the key to what we’re doing is preparing young people for life through athletics. I think how we do that is important. I truly believe we have the tools, the resources and the people both here in this community and around the state who have reached out to me and want to lend support to this university and will continue to lend support to this university. That was a significant factor in me taking this job.”
Even though this is McNeely’s first stint as an athletic director, he does have a background in sports management. His undergraduate degree at West Virginia University was in that field and he also started his own sports management company. He also owns a law degree from WVU.
“I think there’s a learning curve no matter what, but I do believe I bring a unique skill set to the table,” he said. “Having practiced law, having worked for the West Virginia Development Office and running my own sports management company as well as working for the PGA Tour has prepared me in a lot of ways for a lot of things.
“Certainly there’s things I have to learn and I know I’m going to have to learn them very quickly, but like I said, I believe I have a unique skill set and a great capacity to learn.”
McNeely says for now he is going to take some time to evaluate both the short-term and long-term goals of his department and the various sports that fall under it.
“I’m getting an understanding from (FSU president) Dr. (Maria) Rose as to what our global level of focus needs to be in terms of athletics,” said McNeely. “Also, I’m meeting with each coach to find out what their specific needs are both short and long term. From there we’ll put a strategic plan together which coincides with our global plan to best address those short-term and long-term goals and needs.
“It’s an exciting time for me, and I feel very honored and privileged to have this opportunity.”