Eric Sexton isn’t giving up his black and yellow sneakers, his authority over the Wichita State athletic department or his fondness for Shocker athletes and fans. He plans on remaining a regular presence at athletic events, even as his duties at the university expand beyond gyms and playing fields.
Sexton, 50, has been promoted to vice president of student affairs and executive director of athletics, university president John Bardo announced on Tuesday. The move hands daily responsibility for the athletic department to Darron Boatright, promoted to deputy director of athletics and chief operating officer. He reports to Sexton.
“The objective will be for not much to change,” Sexton said. “Athletics has been on a great glide plane of success. It will run pretty much as we currently run it.”
Sexton remains in charge of the athletic department, although his office will likely move to the Rhatigan Student Center at some point. As has been the case, he will hire and fire head coaches and department heads. He will represent WSU at Missouri Valley Conference meetings, unless his schedule interferes, as has been the case.
“He sets our policy,” Boatright said. “He sets our direction. He continues to lead the ship.”
Sexton “will assume added duties with broad responsibility for making the campus more welcoming and supportive in every aspect of their WSU experience,” according to a university statement. He will oversee residence halls, the Rhatigan Student Center, campus recreation, Student Health Services, dining services, diversity programs and other areas.
Boatright, formerly senior associate athletic director, was named deputy director of athletics and chief operating officer. He oversees men’s basketball and baseball and supervises areas such as marketing, tickets and fund-raising. He will add duties involving areas such as compliance, academics, the business office and facilities to his responsibilities.
The structure of the department, both men say, will not change noticeably.
Senior staff members will continue to oversee sports and departments. For example, senior associate athletic director Becky Endicott is responsible for volleyball, women’s basketball, softball and the golf programs. Senior associate athletic director Rege Klitzke oversees track and field. All senior staff members monitor areas such as compliance and facilities and report to Sexton. Now Boatright, 39, will be involved in more areas daily.
“For our coaches and sport programs, I don’t think much will change at all,” Boatright said. “Eric has never been a micromanager and he allows sport oversight to several of us. I hope no one, internally or externally, sees more than a little difference.”
Sexton became WSU’s athletic director in 2008 after serving as executive director for government relations and board of trustees.
As athletic director he has largely kept a successful group of coaches, such as Gregg Marshall, Jody Adams and Chris Lamb, happy and employed at WSU in the face of offers from larger schools. He also fired baseball coach Gene Stephenson, after 36 seasons, in 2013.
Under his direction, WSU built an indoor practice facility for baseball and softball, an indoor driving range for golf and renovated men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball locker rooms. WSU is planning and fund-raising for a new student services building and luxury boxes at Koch Arena.
With his new duties, he has a chance to improve student life at a time when the atmosphere on campus is changing with a new dormitory, a renovated Rhatigan Student Center and the Innovation Campus.
He brings a personal touch to his job as athletic director. Sexton can often be found talking and joking with athletes and knows many of them by name. At games, he works the arena and talks with fans and slaps hands and laughs with those in the student section, sometimes while wearing his signature Shocker-spirited sneakers. He wants to continue those touches with the rest of campus with his new duties.
“I looked at it and thought it’s a great continuation of a way to give back to an institution that has given so much to me,” he said. “I’m so pleased that President Bardo thought of me.”
Boatright came to WSU in 2010 from the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where he worked in development. He also worked at Murray State and as director of basketball operations at Alabama. He works closely with Marshall in many areas, including scheduling, and also took a prominent role in hiring baseball coach Todd Butler.
“Darron is well-prepared for this,” Sexton said. “He’s had numerous experiences as a coach and an administrator and he has served us well.”