Jon Hind '80 returned to Hamilton this summer as the College’s athletic director.While he spent the past two decades in the Midwest — most recently at Butler University, where he was associate athletic director of operations — he has deep ties to Central New York. He is a 1976 graduate of Henninger High School in Syracuse; he played lacrosse and football at Hamilton; and he served as assistant coach in both sports on two different occasions during the 1980s while teaching in Clinton schools.
Hind coached lacrosse and football at the Division III College of Wooster in Ohio from 1986-91, then moved to Division I Butler in Indianapolis in 1991 to found that school’s lacrosse program. Despite building from scratch, Butler had six winning seasons in his seven years as coach, and Hind was named National Coach of the Year by the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association after he guided the Bulldogs to the NCAA Championship tournament in 1998.
He left the sidelines in 1999 to become an athletic administrator, overseeing Butler’s soccer, tennis,men’s lacrosse and women’s volleyball teams, and the sports medicine department; and he served as Butler’s interim athletic director in 2006.
Hind was a four-year letter winner and two-time captain as a defenseman on the Hamilton lacrosse team, and he lettered in football as a sophomore. He earned a master’s degree in athletic administration from Kent State University in 1991. He and his wife, Carol, have two daughters, Kayleigh and Meghan.
During a campus visit in May, Hind sat down to talk about his new job and his memories of the Hill with Utica Observer-Dispatch sportswriter and columnist John Pitarresi ’70 and Jim Taylor, Hamilton’s sports information director. The conversation was lively, candid and often funny; Hind leaves the impression of a man who is interested in both the big picture and the small details, and who takes his work—but not himself—very seriously.
Below are excerpts from the interview. A longer audio version of the interview is also available here.
You're a Division I guy for the last 16 years, coming back to Division III. It isn't done all that often. Can you tell us why you made this move?
First and foremost, Hamilton’s a very, very special place for me. Secondly, Butler is a Division I school, but … at the time when I went out there, Butler was only about 3,000 students. I found it a place where I could enjoy myself, bring up my family and build a successful lacrosse program. Having been there for 17 years, there’s no question in my mind that I’m grounded in Division III philosophies.
What do you see as the value of an intercollegiate athletic program in Division III - value to the student-athelete, to the school, to the alumni and to the community?
The things that ring out to me are balanceand education. Even at a Butler, I find times that are not in line with the balance that I think is important for all of us — to stay centered and keep things in perspective. I look at Division III, whether it’s physical education, athletics, intramurals or recreation, as a co-curricular component
as opposed to an extracurricular entertainment venue. I look at myself as an educator and a teacher, and the desire I have is that everyone in our department would work to do the same thing.
Is it practical to run a Division III program like a Division 1 program? What would be the differences?
I wouldn’t want to run one the same way. Again, balance. There were a lot of times when I felt like an anomaly at Butler. Maybe that’s why we were successful, I don’t know. I had a way of understanding when it was time to back off and not ask for more. I understood that players still wanted to be students. I understood that my two hours more of practice at the end of the day wasn’t going to be a dealbreaker. I didn’t go off the deep end if someone came to me and told me they had a physics test that was critically important and they had to miss practice. It was a teaching moment, but the teaching moment came a day or two after the physics test, when I could talk to that player about time management, as opposed to demanding he be at practice.
Having said that, they still keep score in Division III, just like they keep score in Division I. I don’t think Hamilton strives to be mediocre in the classroom, and I don’t expect us to strive to be mediocre on the athletic field.
What are the parallels and differences between coaching a team and leading an athletic department?
That’s a great question. In a lot of respects, they’re parallel. I find most often that analogies I am making with coaches come back to that very point. Tough decisions sometimes have to be made for the betterment of the whole group as opposed to an individual. Coaches do that all the time with their teams. Administrators have to do that with people, whether it’s with coaches or staff members or student-athletes.
What can a strong athletic program at the Division III level mean for the college?
It can mean a lot for the alumni, it can mean a lot for the community, for faculty, staff, students. It can mean invaluable memories for the student-athletes themselves. I think it touches on everything. I expect our whole department, first and foremost, to be ambassadors for the College. I think it’s critical that we do a lot of reaching out to the entire community, not just to Clinton. I already have a couple of plans in mind. As an example, I can envision a day each season when we have an all-day clinic, and anyone who has anything to do with that sport can come up. If it’s a coach, we have some coaching clinics; if it’s a young kid, we have some clinics for the kids to participate in.
Sportsmanship is a huge buzz across the country. I have to be honest, I’m many times appalled at the conduct of students at Butler games, students at almost every college and university I visit. I’m appalled by parent conduct at my own daughter’s youth soccer games. I think that’s an endeavor for us to take on as well.
From the campus standpoint, we can be a rallying point, we can be a source of entertainment, we can be an outlet to have fun and do things.We need to work to integrate ourselves throughout the whole campus. Either you’re a part of the community or you’re not, and Hamilton embodies community.
Along those lines, what is your vision for this intercollegiate program?
The only way you’re going to get to Indianapolis is to drive for an hour and a half to two hours through cornfields from any direction.When I took on the lacrosse program at Butler, there wasn’t a single high school lacrosse program in the state of Indiana. And yet we were going to take on building a Division I lacrosse program. So it’s assessing along the way points you want to reach with the program. And the point I kept coming back to with my assistants was, “Too many people keep telling us we can’t win here. Tell me why we can’t.”And each time somebody would have an answer, we would find a way to refute it. We just kept marching forward, building a more and more successful program.
I would say the same thing here. To me, defining success would be asking Hamilton student-athletes one, two, five years out: 1) Did they have a great experience here? And 2) Would they come back if they had to go to school all over again? Our drive should be [to hear] “yes” and “yes.
The physical plant is much different from when you were in school and when you were coaching here. Have you had any time to assess the favilities and what you might like to see?
There was a several-phase study done on improvements to the College, and part of that was on improvements to the Athletic Department. [Professor of Physical Education] Dave Thompson has already passed that on to me. My quick assessment is that there are some needs. There are three or four facets to your question, John. One is the ability of coaches and staff to do their jobs as efficiently as possible—the office/classroom/meeting space needs.We are more spread out here than at any school I’ve ever worked at.
No. 2 is the ability to meet and interact among coaches, staff and teams. If I have 45 lacrosse players and the only place we can meet is in our locker room, I have kids sitting up and down benches between lockers. I can’t be eye-to-eye with every one of them, and they can’t be eye-to-eye with me. That creates a very different dynamic in a meeting. And I think the same thing holds true with the staff.
No. 3 is the recruiting environment.We need an environment where a coach can feel comfortable having parents and their son or daughter visiting the campus.We need to have a place that’s not sitting out in the open foyer between the Alumni Gym and the hockey rink. There has to be a better setting.
And to take it a step further, eventually, if those recruits come here, they end up alums.We need a central location for celebration, for gathering, for camaraderie, for ommiserating — for whatever you want to term it that day.We need a central focal point for alums, parents, guests of the Athletic Department and friends to gather. And currently I don’t see a viable location for that, either.
I’ve addressed all those issues, and we haven’t even gotten to a single playing surface. I don’t think it would be fair for me to address that at this point.
Hamilton has a long and rich tradition in lacrosse that you have been a part of. Is there any chance we may see you on the sideline as an assistant coach?
Isn’t this one of those questions that people always try to dodge? Would I love to do it? Yes. Do I think that I’ll have the time to devote to it and do it justice? Probably not.
You have a rather well-known nickname from your days here at Hamilton. Would you care to share the story behind it?
My nickname is Hondo. A lot of peoplethink it comes from the John Wayne movie. More people around the country know me as Hondo than as my actual name. I’m an absolutely atrocious basketball
player, but I used to love to play because there are so many similarities to lacrosse, defensively especially.
So I was playing intramural basketball freshman year here, and we had several kids on my floor in Dunham who grew up in Boston. I hadn’t had a basket all season. We were in the intramural tournament …
You were always very smooth and elegant, Jon.
… and I was stuck with the ball along the baseline. Lord knows, I had nothing to do with it, I was just trying to find someone to throw it to, and I couldn’t find anyone. So I just turned around and shot it, and it went in. It was my only basket of the year. So that night at the pub, the Boston guys started chanting ‘Hondo,’ from Hondo Havlicek [of the Celtics]. And lo and behold, the name has stuck since 1976.
There could be worse nicknames. That's a good nickname.
Yeah, but I feel bad for Hondo Havlicek.