Henderson State’s new AD looking to make his mark

By Wayne Bryan Published February 16, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
0 Comments A A Font Size
PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Shawn Jones is the athletic director at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia after accepting the university’s offer of the position late in 2013 and starting to work on Jan. 2. Jones said he has been following athletics at HSU since 2009, when he was the associate athletic director for external operations at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.

Shawn Jones, the new director of athletics at Henderson State University, said he thinks he was destined to be in this job on this campus in Arkadelphia.

“I first learned about Henderson State in 2009,” said Jones, seated in his new office at the Duke Wells Center on campus. “I had an informal interview with Chuck Webb about the AD job, but it was not a good time for me to move.”

Jones said he had been following HSU sports since that time, while he was associate athletic director for external operations at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.

“Under the leadership of Kale Gober, who was named the AD at Henderson, the program improved while I gained more experience,” Jones said. “A few months ago, Dr. [Glenn] Jones (president of Henderson State University) reached out to me and invited me for an interview. I like him and his vision of moving the school from good to great. He said no one at HSU wants to settle, but aspires to excellence.”

Shawn Jones said he and his wife, Melissa, also like the community and that it has a familiar feel.

“The campus is beautiful, and so is the community. We both grew up in small towns of 12,000 to 13,000 people, and we enjoy small-town life,” he said. “Having followed the department for several years now, and then to have Dr. Jones reach out to me for an interview, I just have the feeling that it was meant to be.”

The new athletic director, his wife and their two children packed up and moved during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and he started work Jan. 2.

“Coming in during the middle of the academic year, we have several sports in action, so I am not going to look to make changes right now,” Jones said. “I am looking around, talking with folks and listening.”

Jones has been attending HSU basketball games, and he said will be at the games when the Reddies take to the baseball field. He will also be working on details to promote the teams and to draw in more fans to the games.

“I’ll be taking time to assess priorities and try to get the big picture of the athletics program,” he said. “During the summer, I will use my experience to examine the different processes used and decide what will work, and it is very likely that I will find that the established ways things are done here are actually better than what I’ve seen in the past.”

Jones said he will also constantly work on fundraising, making sure the department’s actions are in compliance with NCAA regulations and that the welfare and academic success of the students are a top priority.

“I’ll be looking to make sure things run effectively and efficiently,” he said. “It is already a good organization of 300 students and 25 employees, and I haven’t found any problems we can’t fix.”

Jones said that from an early age, he knew he wanted to be involved in sports.

“I like everything about sports — the excitement and pageantry of the games,” he said. “Growing up on a farm, I often played sports by myself, bouncing a ball off the chimney and all the while announcing the games to myself.”

In high school, Jones played baseball, football and basketball; ran cross country; and took up golf. However, while he felt he could have walked on and made a team as runner, he knew he did not have the talent for playing college sports; so while some of his friends went to try-outs at the University of Central Missouri, he went to the athletic offices and volunteered to help.

He also worked at a radio station in Warrensburg. He was the assistant sports director and worked in the sports information office of the college.

“My first assignment at the sports information office was to announce a track and field tournament,” Jones said. “It ran for two days on a weekend and was about 10 to 12 hours each day. When it was over, I told them I loved doing it, and I was hired for my first paying job in the athletics department.”

Jones earned a bachelor’s degree in organizational communications from Central Missouri in 1997. He would later receive a master’s degree in physical education and sports science, with a specialization in athletic and sports business.

After school, he went to work for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, promoting golf as a sport and also working to have course supervisors recognized for their professional skills.

“Those people running a golf course are so much more than just a groundskeeper,” Jones said. “This was during the time of the Tiger Woods effect when interest in golf was high, and many new golf courses were being opened.”

Jones entered college sports working for the University of Kansas Athletics Department, serving on the broadcast team for Jayhawk Baseball and as the announcer for a coach’s show in Lawrence, Kan. In addition, he sold advertising for the Jayhawk radio and television networks and provided play-by-play for the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

It was a job with many responsibilities, Jones said. It showed him that his career required a lot of dedication.

“Working in college athletics is a way of life, not a job,” he said. “Ten months of the year, there are games that are played nights and weekends. You can’t be an hour counter; it is a labor of love.”

In 2000, Jones returned to his alma mater as manager of athletic marketing and broadcasting at Central Missouri. In 2003 he was made an assistant athletic director of external operations.

In his last two years at UCM, he was senior assistant athletic director for external operations, second only to the university’s athletic director.

Now at Henderson State, Jones said he will reach out to former students to help HSU’s winning athletic department become even better.

“Henderson has a winning history, and it can have that again as a champion on the national level,” he said. “I will ask the loyal Reddies to give something back to the school. I have heard that while a student can leave this place, this place never leaves the people.”

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

To report abuse or misuse of this area please hit the "Suggest Removal" link in the comment to alert our online managers. Read our Terms of Use policy.

Subscribe Register Login

You must login to make comments.