Southern Utah University Athletic Director Tom Douple will soon have a new title in front of his name, as well as a new address on his mail. After a little more than five years at the helm of SUU Athletics, Tom Douple will be moving to the outskirts of Chicago to become Commissioner of the conference the Thunderbirds participate in—the Mid-Continent Conference.
“It is with deep, mixed emotions that I do this,” states Douple. “It was extremely emotional for me to visit with (vice president) Dr. Stauffer and (president) Dr. Bennion. They have been so supportive. I can’t thank them enough for this opportunity—no, privilege—to be athletic director. And, it is a privilege.”
Douple has accomplished so many things since arriving in Cedar City in August of 2000 that it would be impossible to list them all, but he is especially proud of a few. “I leave here knowing that the program is running the way it is supposed to, according to the NCAA,” Douple says, as he refers to the recent NCAA certification granted to SUU. “We were fully certified with no conditions and that is a compliment to everyone involved in our program.”
President Bennion states, “Tom Douple, with his tremendous staff and great campus and community support, provided excellent leadership through the University’s successful NCAA certification process.”
Douple joins a very select group of administrators—he is now the leader of one of the 31 NCAA Division I conferences in America. “It wasn’t necessarily a goal of mine to do this, but it is a step up to move on to become a conference commissioner,” admits Douple.
It had become obvious that Douple was well respected by his peers in the conference and across the country. He was recently selected to serve on the national NCAA 1-AA Athletic Directors Executive Committee, a post that will now be short-lived. Also, his counterparts in the Mid-Con think highly of Tom and the presidents unanimously approved Tom as their next commissioner, to provide the vision and leadership they feel is needed to move the conference forward.
Vice President Stauffer exclaims, “What an excellent choice the Mid-Con Conference has made. The institutional Presidents and AD’s who sought out and selected Tom, know they have selected an individual with stellar planning and leadership skills. They’ve selected someone so very well connected and respected within the circles of Division I athletics that the conference is certain to improve.”
During his tenure, the graduation rate for SUU athletes has gone up, including setting a record this past spring for graduating the most student-athletes ever. The department’s student-athletes maintained a GPA of 3.0 or above for the past four years, brought home several NCAA academic national championships and has earned an unprecedented three Mid-Continent Conference Sportsmanship awards.
“Tom has always been focused on the student-athlete. SUU’s athletic success, both on the playing field/court and in the classroom, reflects that vital priority,” asserts Bennion.
Part of Tom Douple is hating the thought of leaving: “This is as good an AD job as you could find out there. I will miss my great staff and excellent coaches. I will miss my neighbors and friends and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it here. It is a fun place to be. It is a great place to be.”
Dr. Stauffer, Tom’s immediate supervisor, shares, “One of Tom’s many strengths has been his ability to recruit top notch talent to SUU; coaches and staff members who are a great fit personally and professionally with our university and community. He’s set a high standard for us to replicate, and I will miss both his professionalism and his friendship greatly.”
Part of Tom Douple is excited to move on to a new challenge: “I’ll be working on a larger scale with nine Division I institutions and be able to carry out a strategic plan of the Mid-Con’s Presidents Council. I will be involved in the policies and procedures of the conference and will be able to make positive changes that will affect a very large number of student athletes.”
One of the most outstanding accomplishments during his time as AD has been Tom’s ability to improve the facilities. Of the more than 16 facilities upgrades, Douple is happiest to see three of them completed: A new strength and conditioning center, a new academic center, and a new sports medicine center.
“Those were all original goals from my first days at SUU because they improve conditions for and affect all of our student-athletes,” describes Douple, as he shares his genuine concern for the welfare of “his students.”
When money for projects wasn’t available Tom went out and found it—increasing fundraising efforts by nearly 160% in his five years. He also just completed a sponsorship agreement with Adidas that will assist the athletic program financially for years to come.
“When Tom, Anita and their family came to SUU five years ago, they embraced both the University and the community” says President Bennion. “As a result, Tom’s leadership and accomplishments in a half decade are indeed remarkable! He will be missed but he has made tremendous contributions to SUU athletics, our coaches and students. I am happy that we will still have close association with Tom as our commissioner, which reflects the high esteem in which he is held throughout the Mid-Continent Conference.”
Douple leaves SUU with a legacy of achievements that seems to be much larger than five years would allow. He established a soccer program from scratch. He created the Kathryn Berg Softball Field. He led the way in establishing a new football conference for his team to compete in. His teams won 22 conference championships and he leaves behind a collection of staff and coaches that is well positioned to continue with the success he has directed.
“It’ll be a change though,” Douple says with a sign of emotion in his throat. “I’ll miss seeing the student-athletes every day, watching them in practice and seeing them around campus. But, now I will just get used to seeing more of them from all nine schools at conference championships.”
Assistant to the president, Dean O’Driscoll says, “It’s going to be hard to lose Tom from a marketing perspective. He always had one eye on how he could gain additional exposure for the University. He accomplished so many positive things that garnered great publicity for SUU that I don’t know how I will compensate for his leaving.” O’Driscoll continues, “At many universities, athletics is something that has to be kept in the shadows, but Tom made sure that the coaches and student-athletes were doing things we wanted the world to know about.”
Douple starts his new assignment on October 10, in Elmhurst, Illinois, and will have a six-member staff to help him move the conference to a new level. But, SUU co-workers and friends won’t lose touch completely. “Hey, I’m still in the conference,” Tom says with a smile. “I’m only a phone call away.”