McCollum's Column: Weaver's full plate gives Warriors hearty experience

Two days before his inauguration as Hendrix president, William Tsutsui sat in a meeting room at a restaurant and listened to his athletic director talk about her whirlwind experience to the Conway Noon Rotary Club.

“I’ve been around college athletics 20-something years and I have never seen a president at so many practices and games in such a short time,” said Amy Weaver, the only female college athletic in the state and one who has more sports on her plate than any college or university, including the University of Arkansas.

As Tsutsui and Hendrix officials prepared for a whirlwind series of events during inauguration and Alumni Weekend, Weaver, the Warriors’ softball coach for 13 years, recalled how her head was spinning when she was asked to succeed Danny Powell, who resigned for health reasons, as interim athletic director in 2011.

That title later became permanent but Weaver didn’t want to give up softball duties. “I had just talked to my players about nothing in life is easy and sometimes life throws you curves, but you don’t quit,” Weaver said. “I couldn’t go back and quit on my kids. I knew I would miss the relationships, which is why I got into coaching.”

So, Weaver is now one of the busiest (and probably the most organized) administrators in the state in charge of 21 sports and more than 400 athletes while coaching a softball team in which she recently recorded the 300th victory of her career. She has led the college through adding football and women’s lacrosse while overseeing the building of a new football stadium with a track, an indoor tennis facility, new turf fields for field hockey and lacrosse and a state-of-the-art field house that includes a large weight room, meeting rooms and classrooms in addition to locker space. “Most athletic directors don’t have the chance to start new programs or build new facilities and I’ve had the chance to do both,” she said. But, she admitted, “The first six mornings I was on the job, I drove my car up before work and thought I don’t believe I’m in charge of all this.” Her first major task was to hire a football coach for a program that hadn’t had a team since 1961. “I knew if I missed on that one, it would have major consequences,” she said.

She hired Buck Buchanan, who led Hendrix to four victories the first year (one of the best records for an NCAA Division III startup program in history) and 6-4 in the Warriors’ second year last season.

“That first football game was two years of life compounded into one game,” she said. “When Steve Crenshaw kicked the winning field goal in the last season and the team ran across the field to celebrate with the student body ... I still get chills.

“Adding football has helped all sports with the new weight room and facilities. And it has added life to campus.” Weaver saluted her predecessors at AD that included Ivan Grove, Bob Courtway, Cliff Garrison and Powell. “Every day, I try to uphold what they started.”

Building on a solid foundation with a strong staff, making some great hires and developing a connection with students and athletes not regular seen in college athletics, Weaver has led Hendrix to be competitive in almost every sport on the Division III level, which does not allow scholarships for athletics.

Recently, the school has produced a national heptathlon champion (Elizabeth Krug), a pro draft choice and minor league player (Collin Raddack) and Southern Athletic Conference champions in volleyball and men’s basketball. She noted that in the last year Hendrix has had 22 conference Players of the Week, two national Players of the Week, three Players of the Year and one Coach of the Year. Men’s basketball and volleyball qualified for the NCAA tournament. Volleyball, which hadn’t had a winning season until three years ago, won a regular-season and tournament title.

She noted that, in the last year, Hendrix hosted 150 athletic events, five tournaments and three conference championship tourneys. “A lot of schools like coming to Conway because of the number of hotels and restaurants nearby and that it’s a vibrant community,” she said.

And she saved the best statistic for last. The 400 or so Hendrix athletes combined for a cumulative grade-point average of 3.23 last year and 98 athletes (62 percent of those involved in fall sports) had a GPA of 3.25 or higher and made the SAA’s academic honor roll. The graduation rate for Hendrix athletes is 75 percent. “I tell the kids that you don’t graduate with a ball, you get a diploma,” she said. On this Alumni Weekend, there is plenty to celebrate at Hendrix.

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