New AD aims to impact intramural, club sports; not just varsity teams | The American Word

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New AD aims to impact intramural, club sports; not just varsity teams

Katie Johnson | 4/25/13 9:00am

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in the April 25 print edition of our magazine.

Billy Walker

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Dr. William Walker was introduced as the 14th Director of Athletics and Recreation Feb. 28 after former Athletic Director Keith Gill left for the same position at the University of Richmond in December.

From athletes on scholarship to students running on treadmills at Jacobs Fitness Center, the Athletic Director’s responsibilities impact everyone in the AU community. Dr. Walker, who most recently served as Deputy Athletic Director at The United States Air Force Academy, has a plethora of experience ranging from his time as chair of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee to being an expert panelist for the U.S. Department of Education.

“He’s in the ‘whatever it takes’ kind of mode,” Dr. Gail Hanson, chair of the selection committee for the new Athletic Director, said. “[He is a] careful leader and manager [looking to] identify where the opportunities are” for AU students rather than make any huge changes.

One of the biggest reasons Dr. Hanson says Dr. Walker was tabbed as the department’s new leader is because of his impressive commitment to the university’s values. Among those ideals is his dedication to student involvement in AU athletics and high student athlete academic achievement.

“Our number one goal is to make sure that we’re producing great student athletes that have a rewarding, fulfilling athletic experience,” Dr. Walker said, “but while at the same time not sacrificing or compromising our academic experience.”

Although people generally think of varsity teams when the phrase AU athletics is thrown around, intramural and club sports are also essential contributions to the university’s athletic program. And that acknowledgement by Dr. Walker is another important attribute that separated him from other candidates.

“The way he thinks about recreational and club sports really made him stand out,” Dr. Hanson added. It was important to the committee that the next Athletic Director thinks of the recreational sports in the same way as varsity teams.

In accordance what that philosophy, Dr. Walker says he plans to support all students participating in non-varsity sports. “I’m definitely going to make sure that I am always involved in watching clubs and intramurals and trying to support them the best that I can,” he said.

“We in athletics talk about the benefits that are derived from athletic competition in the intercollegiate level all the time,” he went on to explain. “Those same benefits are certainly applicable to students that are competing at different levels,” including the students simply heading to the Jacobs Fitness Center for a Zumba class or quick workout.

Throughout my conversation with Dr. Walker, he gave off a sense of friendliness and openness – two qualities that an AU administrator should have when they have such a vast impact on our AU experience. After we finished talking, he invited me to stop by his office once he’s here on campus, only further verifying that sense of camaraderie. So even if you’re not necessarily involved in a sports club, or a fitness class, we’re all a part of Dr. Walker’s student body. And we will all benefit from his tenure at AU.