Behind the scenes with Parkland Athletic Director Rod Lovett
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 11:03
A successful athletics program requires more than just great coaches and athletes. The athletic director holds the keys, which guide the present and future of the department.
Current Parkland Athletic Director Rod Lovett has been the catalyst behind the ever-increasing popularity and success of Parkland Athletics. He didn’t start out as athletic director, though; he had to work his way up to it.
A local resident, Lovett attended the University of Illinois where he earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in sports management. He got his start as a track and field assistant at Illinois and filled the role of the non-revenue sports recruiting coordinator, which put him in charge of recruitment for every sport but football and men’s basketball.
However, in the spring of 1989, the athletic department at Illinois underwent some changes. The department eliminated a few sports and administrative positions, one of which happened to be Lovett’s.
Looking for a job, Lovett turned to Parkland after hearing about some openings for part-time teachers. “In all honesty, I thought I’d be at Parkland for about three months,” Lovett said.
He has now been associated with the Cobras for 22 years. His previous high school level baseball coaching experience allowed for him to receive an assistant coaching job at Parkland in 1990.
After a rough season, former Athletic Director Jim Reed decided to let go of the current head coach mid-season, who was replaced by Lovett.
“I had really not planned on being a college baseball coach,” Lovett said. “Then we started having some success, and you know, we just kept going with it.”
Lovett went on to win 501 games and four region 24 titles in his 12 years as head coach. In 2000, he was appointed athletic director by a departing Reed, and served as both head baseball coach and athletic director from 2000-2002.
After the 2002 season, he retired from coaching to assume full time athletic director duties.
“That was kind of the agreement that at some point in time early in my career that I was going to have to give up the baseball and do the AD. That was fine, I was ready for that,” Lovett explained. “That’s probably the best way to go because you can be effective with all sports.”
He has been the full time athletic director since the fall of 2002. The Cobras have won two baseball national titles during his run as director and have had success in other sports as well. Many of its sports teams have reached the national tournament regularly.
Despite his own accomplishments with the Cobras, his current focus is solely on making all athletic teams the best they can be.
He performs myriad tasks daily. “Every day is different,” he said. “Some days you’re dealing with eligibility issues, other days it’s junior college or conference things, other days it’s actual game day activities.”
He also takes care of hiring and paying officials for sporting events and coordinating all of the intramural activities that Parkland has to offer.
“I’m not stuck behind the desk all day. I’m not the suit and tie guy,” Lovett stated. “It’s nice to be able to go out to a softball game or a soccer game during the day. I really enjoy that.”
Lovett has the additional duty of approving any facility upgrades such as the new fitness center, and approving future plans for the department as well.
Much of the time spent in his office involves answering email from players and coaches and organizing many different meetings for functions regarding Parkland athletics.
In addition to his duties related to Parkland, Lovett also deals with many other things involving the other schools around the area.
Seven years ago he was appointed as Men’s Region 24 director. In this position, he oversees all other schools in the region and deals with any questions or things they need. This makes him the National Division II Baseball Chairman, as well.
He runs the Division II World Series every year in Enid, Oklahoma. Lovett’s also coordinates all Region 24 postseason events.
“I keep myself busy with a lot of those types of activities,” he said. “March, May, and November are my busiest months of the year.”
He kept his fingerprint on baseball for a few years after retiring from coaching by being the Director of Baseball Operations. In that role, he dealt with scheduling, travel, budget and other administrative issues while the head coach at that time, Dave Seifert, was not a full time employee at Parkland.
Now, with the last two head coaches being employees, those duties have diminished a little, but he still keeps close tabs on the sport he once coached. “Much less responsibility now than it was,” Lovett said about those duties.
Aside from his daily tasks, he is always there to provide support for any struggling athlete or coach. He employs an open door policy and encourages athletes and coaches to speak with him if something is not going the way they hoped.
“Just being able to rely on my experience helps,” Lovett pointed out. There haven’t been an abundance of troubled athletes who have come through his door, but when they do he attempts to get them back on track.
“You try to give them the best advice you can give them,” he said. “They want to get that advice from somebody that’s not their coach.” He credits great morale as the driving force behind the success that all Cobras student athletes have enjoyed.
An important aspect of his job is creating that positive image of Parkland athletics and enhancing the brand. “The branding part has been something I’m really happy about.” Lovett stated. “You do see Parkland stuff now much, much more.”
Not only has he helped to put Parkland sports on the map, but he has overseen a program that has become one of the finest, most diverse junior college programs in the Midwest.