Darron Boatright ignored his title until it changed.
On Friday, after nine months as interim athletic director, Wichita State removed the interim label from Boatright’s title. The move concludes a rise in the department that started when he came to WSU in 2010; he assumed responsibilities for daily operations in April 2015 as deputy athletic director.
So while a lot changed, it may feel like nothing changed in and around Koch Arena.
“I got some of the best advice from people on campus who had served in an interim role before,” he said. “They said you have to run it. You can’t worry about the first word in your title. You have to run it like its yours.”
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It is Boatright’s now and he takes over during a potentially momentous time.
He became interim director as WSU launched a study into the possibilities of adding sports, primarily football, and evaluating its membership in the Missouri Valley Conference. Fundraising for a student services building, to relieve overcrowded Koch Arena, and a strength and conditioning facility and locker room at Eck Stadium continues. He spent part of the summer with former assistant baseball coach Brent Kemnitz, now working in the athletic development, addressing concerns about the baseball program with former Shockers such as Charlie O’Brien and Eric Wedge.
WSU president John Bardo announced Boatright’s promotion at Friday’s staff meeting for the athletic department. Boatright said the rest of the day unfolded much like most, except he had many messages and calls to return.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work regularly with Darron on complex issues including conference affiliation, football, academic excellence and funding,” Bardo said in a news release. “He has the experience, judgment and leadership skills needed to be successful in this important role.”
Boatright, 41, replaces Eric Sexton, who in December gave up his role overseeing athletics to concentrate on his job as vice president of student affairs. Sexton resigned that position in June. Boatright’s salary remains $192,600 for 2017 before rising to $200,000 for the remainder of his three-year contract.
In 2010, Boatright came to Kansas after moving four times, all between Kentucky and Alabama. Six years later, he possesses roots with a wife, Kim, and children Fletcher, Maddie, Zoe and Sarah Frances. He relishes living in what they call their nine-minute bubble for their daily commutes to work, grocery store, church and school.
“I’ve found an enjoyment living in Wichita that I probably wasn’t expecting,” he said. “I really feel like we have become ingrained in this community. I’ve developed some fantastic friends.”
▪ Boatright and Bardo will watch the Big 12’s move to see if that produces any options for a conference change. The Big 12 is expected to add at least two members, perhaps four. That could influence conferences such as the American Athletic and Mountain West to look for new members.
“That’s the time you’re going to know if a conference is interested in you and if you’re interested in them,” Boatright said. “We’re in a holding pattern. There’s really not a lot more we can do to put ourselves out there. The word’s out.”
▪ The addition of football is tied to conference membership.
“If we have an opportunity to have a new home … our adding sports may help that possibility,” he said. “We have learned, as well, that it could hinder our possibilities of moving to a place we would want to go.”
The discussions with boosters regarding football continue.
“Our people are interested in having football,” Boatright said. “But there’s pause on the financial backing it would take to make that happen. There’s a little bit of sticker shock that came with that, and I think that was to be expected.”
▪ Boatright and others in the athletic department are raising money for the student services building, which would be located southeast of Koch Arena. It would provide space for academic and compliance offices, computer labs and study areas. Golf and track and field offices will move there to free up space for basketball and volleyball in the Koch Arena offices.
Koch Industries donated $4.5 million to the project in 2014 to boost a $15 million project. A longer-range possibility for adding luxury suites to Koch Arena is not part of the plans, Boatright said.
In 2014, WSU said it needed space for an additional 30 staff members and around 100 athletes added since Koch Arena opened in 2003.
At Eck Stadium, fundraising plans call for strength and conditioning space for baseball, softball and tennis teams, plus locker room and lounge areas for the baseball program.
Boatright previously worked at WSU as senior associate athletic director, where he oversaw men’s basketball and baseball and supervised areas such as marketing, tickets and fundraising before becoming deputy athletic director. He added duties involving areas such as compliance, academics, the business office and facilities to his responsibilities.
He came to WSU in 2010 after working at Alabama-Birmingham as associate athletic director. He also worked at Murray State as associate athletics director and at Alabama in the development department and as director of basketball operations.