Allen Ward has become used to the busy life that accompanies his career. Now, Ward, director of athletics, is stepping away from his role after working in the position for ACU over the past three years.
His departure doesn’t come after disagreements with administration or problems within the athletics department, he said, but he wants to be closer to home and his family, and rest after a career filled with accomplishments.
“It’s simply after 31 years in this profession, and my 17th as A.D., I need to step away, reenergize and reignite my passion,” Ward said. “Plus, now seemed like a good time to, and if the university needs to go through a transition, I thought the best time would be now versus six to eight months from now. I felt very much at peace about now is the time to step away and explore new challenges.”
Throughout his career, Ward served in numerous athletic departments across the country. Before his time at ACU, Ward served as the director of athletics at Murray State for 13 years and came to ACU in July 2018 to take the place of Lee De Deon.
In this time as director of athletics, he steered ACU through its first days competing as a Div. I program in the Southland Conference. With Ward at the helm, the Wildcats earned seven combined Southland Conference regular season and postseason Championships across multiple sports.
Though he enjoyed the championships and titles, Ward’s favorite memories during his tenure are the ones spent with ACU’s student-athletes.
“Seeing the student-athletes achieve everything they were trying to accomplish, from winning championships, achieving in the classroom, and seeing them bond with each other was so special to me,” Ward said. “Things like seeing them being able to excel, and do things like beating Texas in the NCAA tournament and watching that impact on our institution.”
Dr. Phil Schubert, president of the university, worked closely with Ward. Having navigated the critical time after the move to Div. I, Schubert said Ward was key to building up ACU’s program.
“Allen has provided us tremendous leadership at a critical time of our Division I era,” Schubert said. “We had already made the decision to move up, but Allen allowed us to mature and achieve great successes. He has done an incredible job of bringing a professional perspective that has allowed us to become a top mid-major program.”
Ward’s impact was not only felt on the court.
Entering ACU’s athletic department, Ward implemented many changes to the department and its functions, including streamlining the organizational structure and hierarchy, creating new budgeting guidelines as well as checks and balances within the department, and improving communication and the use of ACU’s campus partners.
Steve Harrell, the deputy athletic director of external operations, says that his presence and changes will make an impact for years to come.
“The organization and the structure he has brought to the athletic department has been huge,” Harrell said. “He’s put together a strong administrative team and put together new policies and operations that have been overlooked a little bit. He has always been really relational with the student-athletes and coaches, and has really helped them to be put in a place to be successful.”
Since Ward announced he was vacating his position at the end of the semester, ACU has been on the search for its next director of athletics.
Schubert began the setup of a search committee to work alongside him in the nationwide search to find Ward’s replacement. The university has also hired Dallas-based sports job placement firm, Eastman & Beaudine, to assist in the search and find candidates.
The search committee will interview and assess each of the candidates that are selected. Once that is complete, they will send their thoughts and notes to Schubert, who will make the final decision regarding ACU’s next director of athletics.
In Schubert’s eyes, there are a few important traits that he and the committee are looking for in Ward’s replacement including someone who values ACU’s mission, a proven leader, someone knowledgeable in Div. I inner workings and one who works well with donors and alumni.
“First, I want somebody who embodies our Christian mission and can lead the athletic department in that same direction,” Schubert said. “Second, we want somebody who is a proven leader of people. Third, is someone that has a deep understanding of the ins and outs of Division I athletics, because there are so many intricacies, you have someone who has mastered it to bring that experience. Finally, I want someone who is great at interfacing with donors and alumni, and being able to work with them and build momentum will help both students and athletes. “
Schubert said he planned to have Ward involved in the hiring process of his successor. At this time, no official hire has been announced.
However, when the new director of athletics enters into their position, Harrell said that they are entering at a time where the program is in a prime position for growth.
“The program is in a position to really take off,” Harrell said. “There isn’t a lot of cleanup that needs to happen, and the stage has been set and the foundation has been laid. The key staff is in place, though we could always use more staff, all of our coaches are in a really good place. We have this clean state for an athletic director to come in and really help the program take off, and it seems the sky’s the limit.”
To Ward, the biggest advice that he would like to give his successor is to be themselves, use the staff and coaches, and be patient in the department’s growth in the Western Athletic Conference. But, most importantly, embrace it.
“The greatest advice is to embrace ACU and what it is all about,” Ward said. “When you do that, you realize how many people around here really care about the institution, each individual who works here and the students, and it’s a genuine admiration and love that they have for ACU. So, I would really encourage them to embrace ACU, and that will go a very long way.”