On a typical day, Jordan Herrod will work 12-14 hours. The new assistant athletic director of communications includes talking to coaches, responding to media requests, coordinating interview times, managing athletes’ media schedules and writing his own copy for the Department of Athletics website.
Herrod is the third communications director in athletics in three years. This summer, he succeeded Chris Macaluso, who took over for Lance Fleming in 2019.
“The time demands, being a perfectionist, I want to make sure we’re doing things the right way at a high level,” Herrod said. “Just being able to manage my time and finding time to do the super important things that matter has been a big challenge.”
When ACU joined NCAA Div. I in 2013, everyone noticed. Eight years later, the move continues to require more bandwidth and work hours from university employees – especially in athletics. The move has put staff in jeopardy of burnout.
Over the summer, the Department of Athletics lost Drew Long, its deputy director of athletics for internal operations and Susan Hardcastle, administrative coordinator. Long is now at McMurry as its interim women’s basketball head coach, while Hardcastle retired. Last month, athletic director Allen Ward said he plans to step down at the end of the semester.
Steve Harrell, deputy athletic director for external operations, said he is working 14-16 hours each Saturday for football and 10-12 hours daily. He said the main things he focuses on are relationship-building, fundraising, marketing, ticketing and communications. He followed Ward three years ago to ACU from Murray State.
“You know, we’re small-staffed, and we have really high expectations, and we have really high goals,” Harrell said. “We’re trying to do things at an excellent level. So it means that everybody is strapped really thin and everybody puts in a lot of hours.”
Harrell said he’s working on counting his blessings and not letting the workload get the best of him.
“Obviously more staff always helps to spread out the workload,” Harrell said. “Keeping people from getting burned out is always beneficial. I think you could always complain about what you don’t have and we work really hard not to do that. We try to focus on the blessings that we do have.”
Ward said he hopes to recharge after a long career in collegiate athletics.
“Heading into 31 years in this profession and in my 17th as (athletic director), I just simply need to step away and re-energize,” Ward said. “I think there’s a lot that’s going to be happening over the next year, and if the university was needing to go through a transition, I thought it was better to do it now than six to eight months from now. I just felt that now was the time to step away and explore new challenges and see where God leads.”
Ward said he expects ACU to continue to rise as a legitimate Div. I program and appreciates the support he’s received from Dr. Phil Schubert, president of the university.
“They let it play an important role in the mission of the institution and help tell that story,” Ward said. “If you have that, then you can do anything because you’ve got to start with that.”
Ward said he looks forward to how his successor works at ACU after spending three years in Abilene. His successor will be the third athletic director since Jared Mosley left in 2014.
“They have to be themselves, first of all, I know that whoever it is is not going to be me,” Ward said. “I’m very confident in our staff members and what they bring to the table. They do excellent work and I hope that whoever comes in will immediately see that. I hope they will see the same thing with our coaches.”
Senior graphic designer Todd Mullins works in the Division of Marketing and Strategic Communications. He said he’s worked 70 plus hours a week for the past three weeks due to the start of football season. He said his office works closely with athletics but the university as a whole as well. He said he does 400-500 projects for athletics each year.
Mullins said he’s seen firsthand the rapid rise of ACU athletics, and he used to be the only graphic designer for athletics until this past spring. Mullins said he used to make graphics for all 17 sports but now the workload is significantly lighter with the new staff addition of Jonathan Bentley.
“Leadership recognized that needed to happen,” Mullins said. “We were asking for it and I was raising my hand screaming and saying, ‘Hey I need some help because we’re literally drowning in work.’ It’s just going to continue to grow. It’s the nature of it because it’s a competition with other Div. I schools.”
Mullins said ACU’s starting to recognize the burnout taking place in athletics.
“Are we getting burned out?” Mullins said. “Sure. Are resources coming? Yes, I think so based on what I hear. It’s going to take some people to step up but people know we’re working hard to get things done. We have to work to find that balance but also not put our identities solely in our jobs.”
Mullins said he still struggles to find that work-life balance but is working to find it.
“When you realize first you’re not going to get everything done on time, that’s a huge thing,” Mullins said. “We still struggle with that so you gotta pick. This person may get mad if stuff’s not getting done on time, but you gotta have good mental health. You also have to realize you can’t do it all on your own.”
Herrod took the assistant athletic director of communications role over the summer, but the university continued to look for a new athletic director and an associate athletic director for fan engagement and game presentation.