David Herbster is now the permanent athletic director at USD. He can have the job as long as they want to have him, or he wants to have them.
His hiring confirms he did his job well enough during the interim period in President Jim Abbott’s opinion to be promoted. The audition isn’t over, of course. It’s just beginning.
His predecessor’s two-and-a-half year tenure at USD was marked by the introduction of the pursuit of a new basketball/volleyball facility. Prior to David Sayler’s getting up in 2010 and telling the world one of his responsibilities would be drumming up support to start building, USD was a little squeamish about even admitting there was a need for such a thing.
When Herbster was named the new guy this week, it changed very little in the way of his responsibilities or that of the athletic department staff. While it’s easy to speculate on the direction of the program after a gaudy personnel change at the top end, in this instance it appears the biggest issue is and will continue to be getting the work done.
Until another person is hired, Herbster is, ironically, still the senior associate athletic director – in addition to being the athletic director. Hiring an additional manager should be a high priority.
“The only thing that was really different today was that I had a lot more emails and phone calls,” the 44-year-old said. “My job really doesn’t change – it’s still two jobs. We’ve been working very hard around here to make sure that we don’t slow down. It’s a little crazy when you think about it but we’re just two weeks away from graduation right now.”
Herbster and Abbott had conversations recently about the future of the program with the president vetting his six-year employee on what needs to happen as USD now continues on as a full-fledged Division I operation.
It’s likely a significant amount of those conversations dealt with fundraising for a new arena and coordinating, maintaining and expanding on present and future relationships with alumni. While the movers and shakers at the school have to deal with the “what” in terms of bringing in money, those interested more casually in the athletic programs at the university are preoccupied with the “when”, as in when do they start spending the money they have on something everyone can see.
“We continue to move forward expecting we’ll have a shovel going in the ground by fall,” Herbster said, summarizing conversations he’s had with Abbott on that topic.
The married father of three has a long background in sports, dating back to his days as a 6-9 basketball player at Chantilly High School in Virginia, then at Virginia Tech. It has been apparent that he is going to be more of a “people” guy with those around him than Sayler was, though I would never classify the former AD as difficult to get along with.
An advantage Herbster should have over his predecessor is in his ability to relate to those deeply involved in their sports, be they coaches or student-athletes. He’s been there, and can talk with the people after victories and defeats knowing to a great degree when it’s like to be in that spot.
His ability to get along with coaches won’t be scale he’s weighed with, of course. The money coming into the program during his time on the job will take that spot.
He sounds like he’s ready to take it all on.
“I’ve always tried to make sure everyone here knows you have to come to work with a sense of urgency,” Herbster said. “With our office space situation, we have to be a family. We share facilities, we share office space. We’ve got a good staff, good coaches, a great campus and a great community – we just have to keep moving forward.”
Herbster talked about walking through the Dome recently and seeing the women’s basketball team playing kickball. Probably not an everyday sight at the Dome, but a cause for some reflection.
“You see something like that and you realize that, in the end, we’re talking about games,” he said. “In our jobs here we have an opportunity to give students a chance to play a game while they’re in college getting a degree. How great is that?”