Kenneth Oliver is one of four finalists for the position of athletic director at Eastern New Mexico University.
By Kevin Wilson: CNJ Staff Writer
PORTALES — As an assistant under Harold “Bud” Elliott, Kenneth Oliver had a chance to come to Eastern New Mexico University in 1994 as an assistant football coach. But he was doing master’s courses at Northwest Missouri State, and the timing wasn’t right.
Now, 15 years later, a more seasoned Oliver comes back with his sights on the top sports job at ENMU — athletic director.
“The timing is almost perfect for us,” Oliver said. “I think Eastern’s a situation where good things can happen.”
The current athletic director, dean of students and vice president of campus life at Central Methodist University in Defiance, Mo., was the first of four finalists to interview for the position.
Oliver has been at CMU since 1999, when he became an assistant football and track coach. Other stops include Northwest Missouri State, William Penn University and Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College, where he served as a defensive coordinator and assistant softball coach.
He’s hoping to get a chance in Portales to put his coaching days on the backburner.
“I’ve worn many hats, and I don’t fail,” Oliver said. “I don’t mean that to be arrogant. I like a challenge, and I don’t plan to be here for just a few years. My goal is to be a 100 percent athletic director at an NCAA institution.”
Oliver said being an athletic director at Division II appeals to him because he can still have some interaction with students, and he considers the Lone Star Conference one of the two premier conferences in Division II, along with the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
He would take over an athletic program where only two teams — the LSC tournament-bound Greyhounds baseball squad and the Zias’ softball team — posted winning records this season.
“Eastern’s in a downward spiral,” Oliver said. “I think it can be stopped and I think you can change it quickly. Can you get to the top in two years? Maybe not. But can you get to the top five? Definitely.”
Some ideas Oliver would want to implement in the department would include listing an athlete’s major in press releases, having honorary coaches from the community for teams and four separate evaluations for coaches each year (self, mid-year, end-of-year and student).
Also, he’d want to communicate with every facet of the university.
“I will know every faculty member by the end of the first year,” Oliver said. “I will be in their offices. If they’ve got something bad (or a suggestion) about athletics, I want them to say it to my face.”
One rule Oliver instituted at the school was that coaches had to call him or send him a text message at the conclusion of games. Early on, he found coaches would happily call in wins and send short texts for losses.
“Now, they’ll text me when they win,” he said, “and they’ll call me when they lose because they want to talk about it. They know I care.”