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McNeese State President Dr. Philip Williams and Athletic Director Bruce Hemphill. (Rick Hickman / American Press)<br>

McNeese State President Dr. Philip Williams and Athletic Director Bruce Hemphill. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

Gazzolo Column: McNeese hits perfection on first attempt

Last Modified: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 5:43 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Sometimes the first pair of shoes you try on are the perfect fit.

For McNeese State President Dr. Philip Williams, Bruce Hemphill is a comfortable pair of old slippers.

Not only was Hemphill the right choice to become the next A.D. at McNeese for Williams, he was the only choice.

“I feel very fortunate we were able to get him,” said Williams.

Hemphill’s resume makes him seem like the perfect fit.

Even after Williams asked the search committee to come up with more names a second time, the only real choice from all was Hemphill.

“He is just the right fit for McNeese and this community,” said Williams.

For Williams, it was love at first sight.

“It is like having a Nobel Prize winner come into your community for family reasons and ask if he can teach at McNeese,” he said. “How could I say no.”

This was Williams’ biggest decsion in his three-plus years at McNeese. And, when you consider all that is at stake with the future of college athletes, and the spotlight nationally A.D.s have come under, he needed to hit a home run.

Grand slam would be better.

When asked about the importance of this decision, Williams said something about he had to name a Dean of Something before. I don’t believe there were as many people or cameras at that announcement.

I know I missed it.

So there was Williams, standing before the crowd admitting that only one man was interviewed for the position just a few short weeks after telling the American Press how big an opening Tommy McClelland had left.

Thus, he started the press conference with the words, “I guess I have some explaining to do.”

He made no apology for not going through the process or putting on some show. He also wasn’t worried about how it looks, no minority candidates.

Williams and the committe had their man so why waste anybody’s time.

“You don’t want to bring somebody in just for show,” said Williams. “That doesn’t seem fair to them, to the committee, to anybody.”

In reality this seems like it was an easy decision for Williams. At the outset it sure seemed like it would be a lot tougher.

He was being tugged from two different directions.

There is a portion of people who want McNeese to be very progressive and think out of the box. Then there is the group that wants to stay within the community.

It is the hardest fight this school seems to have.

Yet from out of the sky falls Hemphill into Williams’ lap.

Being from Sulphur Hemphill he knows the community. Having worked in athletic departments both big and small all over the country he can be see as a newcomer to the McNeese family.

That is a pinch-hit home run for Williams.

He gets to say he hired in insider to the insiders and an outsider to the outsiders.

The best of both worlds.

“The fact that he has been out of the state, in different regions and doing this at different levels is great,” said Williams. “The fact that he is also one of us, from Southwest Louisiana, has knowledge of this region and the people is great.”

Two greats can’t make a wrong for Williams.

Add that Hemphill is living here for family reasons and you get the bonus of stabilty into the mix.

“That is great too,” said Williams.

That’s one, two, three greats and you are in.

As for Hemphill himself, he certainly commanded the room and sounded like a guy ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work.

“I am one of you,” he proclaimed.

He definately had Williams sold.

Before the process ever began, Williams said; “this will likely be the decision people remember me most by.

Thursday he seemed perfectly happy with his decision.

For him, there was no reason to do any more shopping for shoes.

As for McNeese followers, he can only hope that Hemphill’s size fits all.

• • •

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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