WMU athletic director shares program challenges

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Kathy Beauregard says she’s facing one of the greatest challenges she’s ever seen as an athletic director with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beauregard is in her 23rd year as Western Michigan University’s athletic director.

“It was one of the most heart-wrenching scenarios I’ve had. To think about not having a senior year. We didn’t get to finish our winter sports and never were going to start our spring, so it was devastating,” Beauregard said.

“But I’ve also never been willing to back down from a challenge.”

Calling this a challenge is a huge understatement. The shutdown of colleges is causing damage on the budgets of athletic directors, and the lives of coaches and student athletes.

Beauregard also had the challenge of hiring a basketball coach.

“It was like I had ten different puzzles going on at the same time and then you had to find a little piece of one puzzle,” she said.

Steve Hawkins, the university’s former head men’s basketball coach, was let go after 17 years.

Shortly after that, March Madness was canceled, meaning Western would get less money from the NCAA.

Budgets were tightening, travel was restricted and the university halted external hires.

“And when that was made, there really was no doubt in my mind that we had an individual that could step in, take care of what we knew we needed … change. When we met with our student athletes, they talked about passion. They talked about playing at a high level. They talked about commitment to knowing them and the program,” Beauregard said.

With the need for stability, all signs pointed to assistant coach Clayton Bates.

Once Beauregard hired him, she turned her focus to planning for an uncertain future.

“So, everybody’s revenue is up in the air right now. Planning is difficult. Planning has never been anything like this, where you make a decision and two minutes later you are finding out that another decision is coming forward,” Beauregard said. “The financial scenario that everyone is going to be looking at as we move forward is going to be a very different world as we make a comeback.”