On Scott Wetherbee, MSU’s New Interim Athletic Director

In Lexington, Kentucky 10 days ago, Scott Wetherbee found himself very suddenly to be the man in charge. Outgoing Mississippi State Athletic Director Scott Stricklin was still on the job, but he’d already transferred many of his duties to others in the department. Among the jobs doled out, Wetherbee began serving as the sport administrator for the football team. Budgets, contracts, grades, attendance, travel – anything the team did do, did not do or found itself in need of, Wetherbee was the person at MSU they were to go to.

image_handler-aspxOn that Saturday night at Kentucky’s football field – Wetherbee’s first game as the go-to guy – the responsibilities of the job became immediately and incredibly obvious. For most of the game, MSU’s Senior Associate A.D. for External Affairs and acting football administrator had just been standing on the sidelines watching the game and cheering along with everyone else.

Then tragedy very nearly struck when offensive lineman Darryl Williams dropped to the ground before a play even ended and stayed there seemingly motionless for nearly 20 minutes while the stadium waited in quiet nervousness for the doctors and trainers to asses the situation and figure out what to do. Williams was eventually moved onto a stretcher and taken to a local hospital, where tests came back negative and he was later released with very little lasting harm.

In the moments immediately following Williams’ injury, Wetherbee gained a far-too-real understanding of what the job entailed. He was no longer A Guy. He was The Guy, the one everyone was looking toward to have answers.

What hospital will he be taken to? Has anyone told his parents? Are they at the game or back home? Who should go with him to the hospital? What do they tell the team? What they do tell the media and the public? How will he get home? How can they get a plane to Lexington to make sure he gets to fly back in the morning?

Most importantly: is he OK?

Throughout it all, Wetherbee was trying to answer those questions while communicating with Williams’ family, with Dan and Megan Mullen, with team Director of Operations Jon Clark, with medical personnel and with university personnel. It was a lot, to be sure, but it was also the kind of thing he’s spent 20 years in college athletics preparing himself to handle.

“It was eye-opening that all of the sudden you realize, at that time, everybody is looking at you,” Wetherbee said. “That part was pretty interesting to have on my first road trip. At the end of the day, I think we handled it well. Luckily, he’s fine and we were able to get him home safe.”

Today, officially – but nearly a week ago, in reality – Wetherbee becomes The Guy for everything in MSU athletics. With Stricklin now fully off the job, Wetherbee has been named the interim Athletic Director while University President Mark Keenum conducts the search for the full-time new A.D.

It’s kind of a funny moment for Wetherbee who remembers a conversation he had with Stricklin when the two were driving around campus at the end of Wetherbee’s interview for his current position a little over three years ago. Discussing what they both envisioned for the job, Wetherbee told Stricklin he wanted to do such a good job that, after several years, he would make Stricklin look like the best athletic director in the country and Wetherbee would have the opportunity to be in his seat one day.

“I didn’t mean literally his seat,” Wetherbee joked. “I thought he’d always be here and I’d go be an A.D. somewhere else.”

But here he is. So, while the search continues and the interim takes over, perhaps the natural question for fans of MSU athletics for the moment is an easy one: who is Scott Wetherbee?

The last three years and change, his work with external affairs has primarily been about fan experience, taking charge of all outgoing media and communication. Wetherbee was tasked when he was hired with building a video department more or less from scratch, which he did, as MSU now employs a team of a half dozen full-time employees. He was also put in charge of preparing MSU for the launch of the SEC Network and all the production it entailed.

Wetherbee, center, with staff members in Boston for MSU's game against UMass

Wetherbee, center, with staff members in Boston for MSU’s game against UMass

Wetherbee is over the marketing and media relations departments, as well. And in fact, both of the groups won awards in 2015-16 for being the best in their field. Stricklin was even voted Athletic Director of the Year, leading him to joke that he felt bad for Wetherbee being the only one who didn’t win an award.

However, Wetherbee’s reach goes far beyond communication as his duties have steadily grown the last few years as he’s proved himself capable and deserving of new roles. He’s also the point of contact for Adidas (he had just received an example of a potential new basketball uniform at the time of being interviewed.) He’s in charge of licensing. Recently, he was given the responsibility of having the entire facilities department report to him, roughly doubling the amount of staff he’s responsible for.

Wetherbee is the liaison for Learfield, the sport administrator for baseball and volleyball and the point person for game operations. He works with the Bulldog Club, the ticket office and the business office. He’s been going to SEC meetings, on-campus VP meetings and university-wide communication meetings.

Very quickly, Wetherbee found himself at a point where he had his hand in just about everything. Certainly, that’s part of why he was asked to serve in the interim role.

“I feel like I have a pretty good pulse on things,” he said. “So, when Dr. Keenum called me, I thought it would be a good fit and I’d be able to help.”

It was also something of a dream come true, a career-long vision dating back to when Wetherbee was still in school as a graduate assistant in the Ball State ticket office. In fact, it was as an undergraduate on the Ferris State University baseball team that he realized he wanted to be a part of athletics no matter what he did.

When he was a sophomore, the school announced in the fall that the following baseball season would be their last. Because of Title IX restrictions, they were cutting the baseball program.

“I got frustrated by that,” Wetherbee said. “That was a turning point for me. Title IX wasn’t meant to cut opportunities for men. It was meant to give opportunities to women. Unfortunately, a lot of people ended up cutting sports.”

He remembered thinking at the time that if he were in a position to do so, he would have fought as hard as he could to keep programs from being cut and keep student-athletes from losing opportunities. Of course, there was little he could do then, but it worked out well for him as he transferred to Ball State and gained connections and experience that blossomed into a long and fruitful career in college athletics.

Near the end of school, a fellow BSU grad called and offered him his first full-time job at Fresno State University. The same person later brought him to San Diego State University as the Assistant A.D. for Ticket Operations. Before long, Wetherbee was hired as the Assistant A.D. for Marketing and Ticket Operations at East Carolina University.

10 years later, he was hired at MSU, and three years later, here he is.

“I have to pinch myself a little bit,” he joked. “I’ve always been a leader in things that I do. I was always captain of the team and people always looked up to me and I really enjoyed that part of it. I love leading people and putting them in places to succeed, so I feel like I’ve got the right mindset to do that.

“At the end of the day, it’s about the 275 student-athletes and trying to help them. I knew this was a way for me to serve,” he continued. “That’s what we’re here for.”

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