By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports
After 25 years, Greg Burke is moving from the athletic director’s office across the Northwestern State campus to new digs at the NSU Foundation, where he will raise funds for the university’s overall academic and student life endeavors. After his final day as AD Friday, he took time to reflect on his impactful career with Demon Athletics.
SBJ – How are you doing on unplugging from being the NSU Athletics power strip that everybody else depends on?
Gradually, but this definitely cannot or will not be a ‘mic drop.’ There are too many parts in motion. Plus, I have offered to be available to help as needed and as appropriate with the transition.
SBJ – There’s a river of accomplishments you’ve enjoyed since 1996. What are a few of your favorites?
Having the athletic department’s graduation rate trending to the point that it’s now just under 90 percent is right at the top of the list. Preparing our student-athletes to be “Victorious for Life” and seeing that come to fruition first-hand is a trademark of NSU Athletics. And seeing the joy on the faces of student-athletes and coaches for every championship and NCAA appearance over the years has been special.
SBJ – How about some of the most treasured NSU sports feats you’ve shared as AD.
Too many to recount! Here’s some – the 1998 I-AA football quarterfinal win at home over Appalachian State; the NCAA men’s basketball tournament upset of Big Ten champion Iowa; baseball’s long-time-coming first conference tournament title in 2018, coached by Demon baseball alumnus Bobby Barbier; the women’s basketball team winning four games in four days to earn the 2015 conference tournament title; future NFL safety Mike Green’s gutsy 4X400 meter relay anchor leg to clinch the 1999 conference outdoor title; soccer’s resilience to win the 2021 regular-season and tournament crowns after suffering a painful loss in the April tourney and going through a coaching transition in June; winning the school’s first NCAA volleyball berth in 2014 with a great senior class; Cali Burke’s two-strike, two-out seventh-inning, two-run single to win the 2013 conference softball tourney; women’s track and field national championships by Trecey Rew and Jasmyn Steels along with every one of Natashia “Speedy” Jackson’s 20 conference meet gold medals; and the 2010 conference tournament women’s tennis title, which was clinched with a 7-5 third set win by Olga Bazhanova, who later went on to help NSU win more titles as its head coach. There are so many more. The book may be forthcoming.
SBJ – Regrets, we all have at least a few. Mind sharing 1-2 of yours as AD?
Not having the resources to keep some very good coaches and staff, from a competitive perspective but even more so, because I really enjoyed working with them.
SBJ – Crystal ball time. Forecast the future of Demon Athletics and the Southland Conference, or is there a future?
NSU Athletics will be competing for more championships very soon based on the fruition of some initiatives in the works (i.e. Sports Performance Center project), Kevin Bostian’s leadership and the continued dedication of a solid group of student-athletes, staff and coaches … AND increased support from alumni and former athletes.
The Southland Conference will survive this wave of realignment. Every Southland athletic program is taking steps to enhance itself, which will solidify the conference’s profile.
SBJ – Shift to the Ouija board. How do you see the evolution of Division I athletics?
At some point, the media and public opinion have to stop driving decisions and narratives. The NCAA is a product of its membership (the schools) – that is who makes the decisions, not anyone in Indianapolis – so let the NCAA function as it should instead of how the outside world thinks it should.
SBJ – Give us 25 words of advice you’ll share with your successor, Kevin Bostian.
Don’t get too high and don’t get too low. Enjoy and win the day. Find your niche for life balance. Head up and bear down.
SBJ – Smartest move you made as AD?
Made it a priority for every student-athlete, staff member, coach and sport to know that they were important.
SBJ – So after a quarter-century of doing an around-the-clock job, surely before you settle into your new role, you’re going to take off a week or two and recalibrate?
A day or two … maybe.
Photo by CHRIS REICH/Northwestern State