With just over one week left as Ball State’s athletic director, Bill Scholl has already started saying his goodbyes. He all but expected well-wishes from fellow faculty and head coaches, but the response from student athletes surprised him.
A baseball player sent Scholl a two-page email thanking him for making his college athletic career enjoyable.
“I was literally in tears by the time I get done reading this two-page e-mail,” Scholl said.
At least one player from every team has reached out to wish Scholl luck before his Oct. 14 move to Marquette, where he will take over as athletic director and vice president of the university. It's rewarding, because one of the most important aspects of Scholl’s job is creating a positive student athlete experience.
A majority of the work athletic directors put in takes place behind the scenes. Scholl meets with coaches regularly and has a hand in marketing to try and get the student body involved. Resources are limited, though, so Scholl has to decide what areas demand the most attention.
“Every day, there are coaches that walk in the office and say ‘Boy, if I could do this it would really help our program,’” Scholl said. “From a student’s perspective, they probably don’t see any of that.”
What students can see is a constantly changing experience at athletic events. The television boards installed at Scheumann Stadium and Worthen Arena are just one example of the recent upgrades. Bigger crowds can make a difference for student athletes.
“Nobody likes to play in front of an empty stadium,” Scholl said.
Though its inception came before Scholl’s hiring, the Ball State Student Rewards Program has been aimed at improving student attendance for the last three years. Students that attend sporting events can swipe their Ball State IDs for a chance at winning prizes through the program.
Scholl began his career at Notre Dame in team marketing and promotions, so he’s enjoyed evolving the Student Rewards program. The goal has been to consistently draw big crowds to football games, but numbers have been inconsistent thus far.
“Nothing can impact crowd numbers more than getting students engaged,” Scholl said. “We can draw 1,000 students for a football game, and we can draw 8,000 for another. I’ve seen both in my time here.”
One of the most important jobs for any athletic director is voicing their university’s goals for athletics. When Scholl arrived at Ball State, the goal was to be competitive in the Mid-American Conference across the board. Not every program is there just yet, but Scholl has seen several teams drastically improve.
Leaving behind fellow faculty, coaches and student-athletes will be difficult for Scholl. But departing before teams have reached their full potential is going to be rough, too.
“I’ll have to watch it from a distance now,” Scholl said. “I feel like I’m such a part of those programs, that its hard to walk away knowing the success that’s coming to them.”