Ball State Director of Athletics Mark Sandy announced Jan. 9 that he plans to retire from his current position at the end of June.

Sandy has been a part of Ball State’s athletic program since stepping into the role in February 2015 after spending 10 years as the Director of Athletics at Eastern Kentucky University.

However, it wasn’t always planned that way.

While at Ball State, Sandy directed 19 athletic programs consisting of over 500 student-athletes each year.

While being good at math made his original decision to be a high school mathematics and history teacher and coach ideal, Sandy didn’t know he would get involved with college athletics until he went on to serve as an assistant basketball coach at the University of Evansville.

“I thought I would teach high school for a while and then be a small college coach for a Division II school,” Sandy said. “But after two years, my college coach got his first opportunity to be a Division I coach at the University of Evansville in Indiana. He called me out of the blue and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to interview for three different jobs, and if I get one, would you come and be one of my assistant coaches?’ and I said sure.”

Shortly after, Sandy moved to Indiana and has been involved in college sports and administration ever since.

During his time at Ball State, Sandy had the opportunity to surround himself around 19 athletic programs consisting of over 500 student-athletes each year. Looking back at his time spent involved in the athletic program, Sandy spent the majority of his time accommodating his student athletes.

“I’ll certainly miss being around the student athletes and going to all the games and interacting with the alumni,” Sandy said. “I guess what I remember most is that I really try to work with the student athletes. When I was AD, I tried to hopefully convey some things that will help them in life. We always start off the year with a student athlete meeting and we talk about treating people with respect, telling the truth and always doing your best.

“I hope some of those messages have come across to our student-athletes and as young adults and adults, I hope they pass those on to their family and to their future players and coaches. I hope some type of legacy has come out of my years of work.”

Beyond being an advocate of healthy student-athletes, Sandy has enjoyed his time here and highlighted some of his favorite moments that he’s shared with the athletic program.

“Certainly this past year, we beat Notre Dame in basketball, that was a big one,” Sandy said. “When the women’s softball team went to the NCAA tournament at Notre Dame and we won the first-round game up there … that was fun.”

Sandy has seen a lot success during his tenure at Ball State. He watched eight teams win Mid-American Conference league championships or division crowns, including women’s tennis, which won back-to-back regular season MAC titles, along with its first trip to the NCAA tournament in program history in 2016.

One of Sandy’s fondest memories happened in December of 2017 when the Ball State men’s basketball team recorded its first win over a ranked opponent since 2001, when the Cardinals downed No. 8 Notre Dame at the Edmund P. Joyce Center Dec. 5, 80-77.

Although Sandy enjoys seeing his teams win on the court and field, he also is going to miss watching his student-athletes grow in more ways than just in their sports.

“I really think the fun times are when you’re around the student athletes, maybe not even the contest, but just being around them as freshmen and seeing them grow up, someone like Mariah Monaco,” Sandy said. “She’s a senior, so three of those years, I’ve been here for. Just to see her grow and mature as a player and a person, it’s all fun.”

Monaco, who plays under Ball State women’s basketball head coach Brady Sallee, is just one student athlete that Sandy has had the pleasure to watch grow. However, it’s not all about the athletes. Sandy takes pride in the coaches at the university too.

“I think [Brady] likes the fact that we can talk X and O’s too, but more than that, he knows that I’m there for support anytime he needs it,” Sandy said.

For Sallee, his bond with Sandy makes it that much harder to continue his coaching career without him.

“Selfishly, I hate to see it happen because he and I had such a great relationship,” Sallee said. “He’s a big fan of our program and he really provided the resources for us that we thought we needed to do what we’re doing and you always need an administrator like that … who believes in your mission and your vision and he definitely did.”

Although Sandy won’t be here to support the women’s basketball program from the stands when it succeeds next season, he will take away a few proud moments, like one from this season, when he watched the Cardinals record their best start in program history by winning its first 11 games of the season, highlighted by triumphs over Purdue, Vanderbilt and Butler.

“I know this, his friendship that he and I have, it doesn’t go away just because he’s retiring, and that’s the most important thing for me,” Sallee said. “He’s done great for us and great for this department. We hate to see him leave, but we’re awfully excited for him and the next step in his life, and for his wife too.”

In that next step, Sandy plans to spend his time in Virginia with his family, especially his grandchildren. However, him and his wife Kitty Sandy also plan to enjoy retirement. At least, for the time being.

“I look forward to maybe playing some golf, and I’ll be closer to some friends that have retired or are getting ready to retire,” Sandy said. “It’ll just be a little quieter time and I think after working for more than 40 years, I’ll probably look for something else to do. It will be difficult to just stop all together. I’ve got some friends there that are in athletics and other things that I might be able to do, but I have no plans as of right now.”

Although he will be states away, Sandy will forever be a Cardinal at heart.

“Isn’t ESPN3 a great thing?” he said. “I’ll be on there watching every game that’s on ESPN every chance I get and will follow the Cardinals for the rest of my life.”

Contact Kara Biernat with comments at karabiernat@gmail.com or on Twitter at @karabiernat.