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McNeese State Athletic Director Bruce Hemphill. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

McNeese State Athletic Director Bruce Hemphill. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

Editorial: Hemphill hiring a home run for McNeese

Last Modified: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 5:44 PM

By all accounts, the hiring of Bruce Hemphill as McNeese’s new athletic director constituted a coup for the university.

Hemphill possesses the rare qualities of administrative experience elsewhere and a deep understanding of the local landscape to go along with charisma and charm.

Members of the search committee and McNeese President Philip Williams said the Sulphur native blew the rest of the 35 applicants away. In track parlance, he lapped the field. No one else came close to Hemphill’s impressive portfolio.

A standout wide receiver at LSU, Hemphill enjoyed assistant football coaching stints at his alma mater and Louisiana Tech, followed by the recruiting coordinator’s jobs at North Carolina State University, the University of South Carolina and Universty of North Carolina. He served as associate athletic director at the University of Wyoming, overseeing the budget game operations, facilities, personnel, compliance, team travel and recruiting.

‘‘Bruce has a wealth of experience at a lot of different levels in athletics,’’ said Mack Brown, the University of Texas’ head football coach who was Hemphill’s boss at North Carolina. ‘‘He has great integrity and loyalty. I know he’s very excited about being the athletics director at McNeese, with his ties to South Louisiana this is a perfect fit.”

The ninth athletic director in McNeese history, he is the first with no direct link to the university. With his experience, he will bring a new perspective to the university, much like the man who hired him at McNeese, Williams.

Hemphill’s experience and personality will help sell Cowboy teams that are in desperate need of 21st century marketing. Exhibit A is attendance at McNeese’s men’s basketball games.

But he’ll also be an important voice of reason as the university charts a course through the shifting sands of college athletics.

A football super division that includes the SEC, Big 12, Big 10, Pac 12, ACC and Big East looms on the horizon. The literal fallout into the next tier of old Southland Conference rivals like Louisiana Tech, the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, the University of Louisiana-Monroe and Texas State could provide McNeese with an opportunity to move up. Or maybe it would be more prudent for the Cowboys to remain in the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-AA, and the Southland Conference.

Hemphill will help mold those decisions.

At 57, Hemphill replaces Tommy McClelland, 32, who left for Louisiana Tech. Hemphill brings a maturity to the job that was best exemplified when he said that during the interview process he had “heard many ideas and suggestions and I want to hear more. I will hit the ground listening.”

That’s so vital for an athletic director who will listen to what coaches, boosters and fans say and weigh what opportunities might loom in the future.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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