Keith Hackett, a retired director of athletics from Cornell College, has accepted the role of interim director of athletics and will lead Simpson College through the COVID-19 crisis until a permanent replacement is found.
The decision of the change in athletic directors was made by Simpson College’s President, Marsha Kelliher.
“Intercollegiate athletics is an important part of our campus culture and I greatly appreciate that Keith Hackett was willing to come out of retirement to serve as our interim athletic director,” said Kelliher in an email. “He brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and energy to the position. And, of course, former athletic director Bob Nutgrass is a valued member of our community and I’m sure students will be glad to know he is returning to the classroom in the spring. I’m also thankful that Vice President Bob Lane has agreed to chair the search for our next athletic director.”
Hackett claims to have had no previous relations with Simpson College when Kelliher contacted him. Hackett was recommended to Kelliher for the interim role by the search committee for a new director.
“My job is to keep things moving forward, to have someone in the department that is going to take on the role of decision-maker and counselor,” Hackett said. “I’m also going to do a bit of a program assessment and take a deep dive into the budgets.”
Entering the leadership role during COVID-19 has added difficulties to the job that Hackett is still adjusting to. Especially when those difficulties are changing every day.
Despite the difficulties, Hackett believes the Simpson athletic program is taking essential steps and working with the necessary mindset to keep both their staff and athletes safe.
“We (coaches and athletic staff) are setting the example,” Hackett said. “We are wearing masks and using Zoom meetings rather than in-person meetings. Students are going to follow the example we are setting. Anything we do or talk about; we always think about COVID-19.”
According to Hackett in order to keep everyone involved in Simpson athletics safe, nothing is going to be done until Simpson College reaches the yellow phase of their COVID-19 phasing system.
The yellow phase will allow larger group gatherings and would be achieved by having no uptick of confirmed COVID-19 cases on campus within 14 days. The number of COVID cases in Warren county must also decline steadily over 14 days.
Hackett also anticipates that winter sports will be postponed.
“The consensus is that there will be no winter sports until after Jan. 1,” Hackett said. “But that is not definitive yet.”
Even though COVID-19 has taken a toll on intercollegiate athletic programs across the country, Hackett believes that it will not be the death of college athletics.
“There is going to be a Fall of 2021,” Hackett said. “We have to keep recruiting. We have to keep our players engaged and focusing on their academic work. All of our sports are coming back.”