The Renegade Rip

Q and A: New athletic director sits down with the Rip

Zak S. Cowan, Editor in Chief

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Last May, Bakersfield College waved goodbye to athletic director Jan Stuebbe and he was head of the athletic department for 13 years. After a rather brief search for Stuebbe’s replacement, the school hired 32-year-old Ryan G. Beckwith.

Beckwith’s background in athletics includes stints at UCLA and the University of Georgia. Throughout his career he has worked in sports marketing and as a strength coach until coming to BC last year as an assistant coach for the track and field team that finished 24th in the Southern California championships in the spring.

The following is a Q&A format from Beckwith’s recent interview with a member of the Rip’s editorial board.

Editor: How do you like the environment here at BC and how have you been welcomed as the new athletic director so far?

Beckwith: Everybody’s excited and I’m pretty pumped. I like to think I’m a pretty high-energy guy, but everybody here has been absolutely awesome. Everybody is pretty pumped up about new ideas. The posters, for example, are something totally new that hasn’t been done [for all sports], and now the student athletes get to see the posters, so they’re pretty excited about that, and then the regular students are like, “What’s that?” Now, will that boost attendance? I don’t know, but at least we’re starting to branch out a little bit, and I think everyone is pretty pumped up about that.

Editor: What do you think of Jan Stuebbe, that man you replaced?

Beckwith: He’s a legend. Everybody knows him, everybody loves him, and he’s a very nice guy. He’s one of those guys who would just give you the shirt off his back if you need it. I actually met him coaching … and he’s always got a smile on his face, and he was a good leader. He was here for 13 years, that has to say something by itself that he was here for that long, and we still have a very strong program here; he did a great job while he was here. The way I looked at it was the idea from Jan to me was like the athletic department was a car. You’ve got a father and son in a house and you’ve got the family car, you know, the one that dad is always working on and always keeping it in pristine condition and that sort of thing. And then one day he hands the keys over to his son, or you know, whoever, and it’s that person’s job now to not only keep it running and fix it, but enhance it with the knowledge they have and the way things are now. That’s the way I kind of looked at this job. We have a great athletic department, it’s in pristine condition, [and] now it’s my job to continue that tradition and enhance it in the ways that I’ve been taught.

 Editor: What do you think is your main duty here as the new athletic director?

Beckwith: Well, one of the main things is just be a good leader. Again, it’s about that energy level and I think that a lot of people around here were just kind of just doing their job as they normally would … There just seemed to be an atmosphere that should be here that wasn’t for whatever reason, I don’t know. But [the main duty is] building an atmosphere, it’s building a brand of BC athletics that maybe at one point was and at this point isn’t, but we have a stellar … athletic program here. The student athletes are moving on to bigger schools.

As a matter of fact, last year our baseball program, 23 of the 30 baseball players had a 3.2 or higher GPA. Where else can you go, what department are you going to go to where you take a group of 30 students and 23 of them are 3.2 or higher. Not a lot of people would think of an athletic department having those kinds of numbers but we do.

It’s just a matter of being enthusiastic and going out and getting back into the community. I think that is one of the major jobs in this role, to make sure that everyone is staying excited about what’s going on and continue the development of the students.

Editor: What experiences do you have that qualify you for the position you’ve taken?

Beckwith: Well number one, you have your basic qualification: you have to have a master’s degree … I was a student athlete myself in college; played football and ran track in college, and I’ve also been a professional athlete now a number of years in track and field, but not only that … I’ve kind of been at all levels, you know. I was a student athlete obviously at high school, obviously again in college. But then I worked the [NCAA] Division-I level and coached and worked there at administration; and then I coached and worked at the high school level and now at the community college level.

So, I’ve been at all three avenues where we would want to model our development after, [and that is] the Division-I hybrid of everything: the study side of it, the academic advising side of it, the support side of it; and then obviously the look and the feel of the athletic department, we want [our athletic department] to have the Division-I feel and look.

Our student athletes when they are here, are gunning to go to a Division-I school, Division II, III or [NAIA] … same thing with the regular student, you know, there’s schools across the country that people want to go to … because if you’re a student you want to aspire to those kind of things, and it’s the same thing for our athletes.

Our student athletes are trying to do that same thing, it’s not just about the athletic side of it, it’s about the educational side of it and what benefits are they going to get educationally moving on from here, and if we don’t develop them to be ready for that, then we haven’t done our job.

Editor: How are you planning on enhancing the athletic department?

Beckwith: Part of it is getting the word out and marketing it: the little things. It’s all about baby steps at this point. Do I have the money to go out and buy a new track right now? No. But can I get posters done? Yes. And we’re going to get a new website up. So, it’s those little steps of just showing progressive movement; having tribute games for the military and trying to pack the house, and bring that atmosphere back here. So, you know, there are a lot of things we want to do to update the facilities to kind of bring us into the new millennium because a lot of the stuff that we have is a little bit older because it was built back in the ’60s and ’70s. Again, at those times, believe it or not, we had some of the best facilities in the country, but now it’s just been a while and that’s going to be part of my job … to update the facilities and put us in the position to be one of the top-tier schools not only in the state, but in the country.

Editor: How do you plan on persuading the school elite to provide you with the funds needed to do the things that you want to do?

Beckwith: … I’ve talked to people in administration here and district level and everyone’s very supportive, I mean, I think that everyone understands the avenue that athletics can play … We kind of have that way to bring the community back here. We are a community college, and if we update our facilities, [and] we have things like that going on, the community is going to be here using the facilities, which is ultimately what we want, so they’re very much behind it. Now, does the state and the district have enough to do all that? I don’t know, but what it’s going to take is a very strong campaign to get into the community and say, “Hey, this isn’t just ours, this is yours as well, and we want to share it with you, but we need help.” And it’s not so much that we want to go out and ask for money, we’re going to work for it. Our student athletes will be out in the community, our coaches will be out in the community. It’s just about working for it and trying to work together with everybody to get the ultimate done which is to update our facilities and have as many events here as we can for the community.

Editor: Last year you were assistant track coach and now you’re at the highest position someone in your field can be in, and you’re only 32 years old so some people are obviously going to question your age and experience. What do you say to those critics?

Beckwith: I guess you have to kind of look around right now. I mean, you’ve got guys in the NFL, NBA, [and] MLB that are all in those types of positions at a young age and it’s just that time. We’ve gone out, we’ve gotten our education and we have very strong resumes. You know, there are a lot of young people that are able to do these types of jobs but they’ve never been given the opportunity. That’s one of the cool things about being here, being my age and being on a college campus because I can be an example not only to the student athletes here but to the rest of the regular student body saying, “Hey look, [you don’t have to be] 50 or 60 years old to have a pristine job and have a job with leadership. If you do the right thing and you work hard, you can be in a very prominent position at a young age, and I’m a living example of that.” So, what do I have to say to critics that will criticize my age? Watch how hard I work. And to the young people that down about the economy and the job market, pay attention, because it can happen to you if you work hard.

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Q and A: New athletic director sits down with the Rip