EXCLUSIVE: MSU AD Beekman on Student Athletes

Jeff Dullack
Bill Beekman New MSU AD! (PHOTO:  Duffy Carpenter @DuffyCarpenter1 )
Bill Beekman New MSU AD! (PHOTO: Duffy Carpenter @DuffyCarpenter1 )

Since stepping in as the interim athletic director back in February, Bill Beekman has gotten a firsthand look not only at the athletic department and its coaches, but the student-athletes that help make up Michigan State’s 25 athletic programs.

And now that the interim tag has been removed from Beekman’s title, he plans to continue shining a light on the good that he sees in the department and from his student-athletes.

In a Spartan Nation exclusive interview, Beekman said that his first order of business upon assuming the athletic director duties in February was to get to know the staff and students within the department and has enjoyed doing just that, while also hearing their stories as well.

“There are so many wonderful stories of student-athletes who have overcome crazy odds and circumstances who are just wonderful people,” he said. “I started this ‘Breakfast with Bill’ where any of the student-athletes want to come and have breakfast, just hang out for an hour - just to meet more of our students and hear their stories and to get to know them. We had a group of five or six members of the field hockey team - and they’re not going pro in field hockey, but they’re busting their tails, they’re working really hard and they’re having a great experience, to hear from them is just really rewarding. Or the student on the men’s tennis team and our men’s tennis team struggled last year, but he had a lot of ideas about internships and alumni programs and he has some ideas that we’re going to start exploring. So just their engagement and their vitality, it’s a good way to keep folks who are our age a little bit younger, to hang out with these wonderful kids.”

When asked about what shocked him most when he took over as the athletic director in February, Beekman said that while it’s not very surprising that there are good, genuine student-athletes within his department, he was still impressed by the positive impact those student-athletes make on Michigan State and those around the school on a daily basis.

“It’s a little unfair to our students to say this, because it shouldn’t be shocking, but in the first week I was in the role I met with every head coach, that was fascinating - some people I’ve known for a long time, other people, that was the first time I met them and then I began to meet with groups of students, student-athletes,” he said. “What was fascinating - and it shouldn’t be shocking, but they’re great athletes and their even better people. Extraordinary young men and women who are working tirelessly to make themselves great athletes, they’re working just as hard in the classroom.”

Now that he is the permanent athletic director at Michigan State, Beekman moves from his previous roles with the university where he was behind the scenes and helped other decision makers with their plans and goals, to now being one of the faces of Michigan State athletics.

With the move from being behind the scenes to now being in the public eye as the head of one of the most important departments on campus, Beekman said he’s looking forward to the change for himself and also understands the fact that he will be the primary decision maker in the athletic department, tasked with making decisions that affect the school’s athletic programs and student-athletes at every turn.

“As much as I enjoyed my prior role, you’re sort of the glue that’s holding a lot of things together, but their agenda and their idea much of the time and leading a program gives you the opportunity to shape it a certain way and it’s an extraordinary responsibility, really,” he said. “But it’s one I relish the opportunity to take on.”

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