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Confident Tyler is new UMW AD

BY STEVE DeSHAZO

If early returns are any indication, Ken Tyler’s tenure as the University of Mary Washington’s athletic director may be successful.

Not only did Tyler ooze enthusiasm and confidence at his introductory news conference, but Eagle teams are 5–0 in games he has attended, including UMW’s 16–8 victory over Washington & Lee in the NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament Wednesday.

Tyler, who comes to UMW after four years as AD at Division II West Virginia Wesleyan, knows the unbeaten streak won’t last forever. But he hopes to close the gap on Salisbury, which has had the top overall program in the Division III Capital Athletic Conference for the past seven years.

“I don’t operate any other way,” said Tyler, who succeeds the retiring Ed Hegmann. “We’re in it to win. Mary Washington has an excellent chance of competing for championships. We will do everything possible to give our student–athletes the best chance for success without compromising the values of this institution.”

Tyler, 47, has history behind him. West Virginia Wesleyan won the President’s and Commissioner’s Cups for overall sports excellence in the 15-school West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in each of his first three seasons as AD. (This year’s final totals have not been released.)

He envisions more of the same at UMW, which won the CAC all-sports title in 12 of the league’s first 15 years, but has finished second behind Salisbury each year since 2005. The Eagles have dominated the CAC in tennis, swimming and women’s basketball, but Salisbury won 12 conference team titles this school year to UMW’s five.

Tyler “brings a lot of positive energy. It’s infectious,” said UMW men’s soccer coach Jason Kilby, a member of the AD search committee.

Tyler grew up in Leesburg, was a member of William & Mary’s basketball team in 1986–87, and was an assistant basketball coach at Roanoke College and under Lefty Driesell at James Madison University.

He was also head coach at Albright (Pa.) and Shepherd (W.Va.), where he also served as assistant AD.

Tyler praised Hegmann, whose 36-year stint as AD will end this summer. Hegmann oversaw a vast expansion in UMW’s program, with the addition of several sports and last summer’s opening of the Anderson Center, where Tyler’s introduction was held.

Hegmann “not only built the foundation, he’s put up walls and a pretty great roof, too,” Tyler said. “He’s the architect of Mary Washington athletics. He’s left some big shoes to fill, but I’m excited for the opportunity.”

Among Tyler’s stated goals is to lift UMW into the top 25 of the annual NCAA Division III Director’s Cup standings. The Eagles ranked 87th after the winter season, well behind Salisbury (28th). Christopher Newport, which will join the CAC in the fall of 2013, is 35th.

CNU’s arrival “will rachet things up,” Tyler said. “It’s definitely a challenge that we’re looking forward to. I plan on studying them: what they’re doing, how they allocate their resources, their staffing, what their mode of operation is.

“We’re not going to concede anything to them.”

Tyler’s tenure begins June 11. By that time, he hopes to sell his home in Buckhannon, W.Va., and move here with wife Dawn, son Jordan, 14, and daughter Logan, 10.

One of Tyler’s first missions is raise the school’s profile within the Fredericksburg community. The Anderson Center attracted big crowds for NCAA women’s basketball tournament games, and he wants to build on that.

Tyler plans to seek corporate partnerships with area businesses that could lead to more revenue for the programs. And while some of UMW’s teams feature local athletes, many come from Richmond, Northern Virginia or out of state.

Massaponax High School activities director Stan Clements played for Tyler on Roanoke’s 1993–94 team that finished 26–2. He said UMW has sometimes been an afterthought for area athletes and spectators, but hopes his former coach can make the school more attractive.

“He’s going to be very hands-on,” Clements said. “He’s a people person. He’s going to have a great impact.”

Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443

sdeshazo@freelancestar.com

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