Director of Athletics Brad Hewitt, who helped SIUE Athletics transition to NCAA Division I competition, has announced his retirement after 30 years at the university.
Hewitt said one of the biggest reasons for retiring now is his desire to explore some different paths, adding that he has interests in business and other industries that serve the community or student-athletes.
“I’ve just always been engaged, not just on campus but also externally and in our community. I’m just looking at different things that keep you busy, keep you young, that don’t have all the responsibilities or pressures of a 24/7 position. Like I said, I feel good about the next few steps and where I’m at,” Hewitt said.
Hewitt’s 17-year-tenure as director is marked by the transition from NCAA Division II to Division I athletics. Intercollegiate athletics became fully DI in 2012. This followed a transition period which began in 2008 when SIUE intercollegiate teams, excluding wrestling and men’s soccer, joined the Ohio Valley Conference.
Hewitt attributed the growth SIUE has experienced during the past few years in part to this transition.
“The transition to Division I was one element of our growth that really exposed the rest of our region to how great of an institution this is. That comes with increased media coverage, increased awareness. To me, that’s one of the biggest impacts or changes that I’ve seen in my tenure here,” Hewitt said.
Hewitt came to the university in 1989 to serve as the assistant director of intercollegiate athletics. He also served as interim vice chancellor for development and public affairs and twice as interim director of alumni services before becoming the director of athletics in 2002, following the departure of the previous director.
Former men’s soccer player Keegan McHugh, a graduate in economics and finance from St. Charles, Missouri, said Hewitt supported student-athletes from day one.
“For men’s soccer, he was always there on the field shaking our hands after our home games. It kind of showed just how much he cared about every single player and every single coach that was a part of it,” McHugh said.
Under Hewitt, Athletics also cut the men’s tennis and women’s golf teams in 2016 due to the state budget crisis.
Hewitt said he thinks the university is out of their previous budget woes and hopes that, after his time at the university is up, the Department of Athletics continues to grow.
“We as an institution and we as a state have weathered some really tough economic times over the past four to six years. And I think we’re out of it. So, you know, you hope it returns and grows and engagement grows. Hopefully our engagement grows, and our sponsorships and our crowds are going to grow, and the budget’s going to get better, and we can move forward,” Hewitt said.
Hewitt also cited the academic success of student-athletes as one of the things he’s most proud of from his time at SIUE. This year, Athletics celebrated 25 consecutive semesters with the average student-athlete GPA above a 3.0.
“I’m very proud of, obviously, our consistency in graduation … [and] our consistency in being above a 3.0 [GPA] all the time. That was a long work-in-progress. It didn’t happen overnight. It’s a daily discipline for everyone involved. It’s been created, it’s been established, and I’m sure it’s going to perpetuate as someone else takes over,” Hewitt said.
Bill Retzlaff, an associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences and a distinguished research professor in biological sciences, has been a faculty athletics representative since 2013 and has worked closely with Hewitt in this role. Individuals in Retzlaff’s position approve appeals, sign eligibility waivers for student-athletes and participate in searches for new coaches and staff.
Retzlaff said Hewitt has been great to work with during his time as faculty athletics representative. He said one of the biggest changes the Athletics Department could see with a new director of athletics is a change in athletic conferences. He stressed Hewitt’s commitment to success for the department.
“The thing I’ll miss most [about working with Hewitt] is the academic and athletic success of our student-athletes,” Retzlaff said.
According to SIUE Athletics, Chancellor Randy Pembrook said the university will immediately begin a national search for Hewitt’s replacement.