Name: Garnett Purnell
Institution: Wittenberg University
Title: Director of Athletics
Education: Cheyney University (BS Degree) and University of Dayton (MS Degree)
• People may be surprised to know that …
GP: I’m a graduate of clown college. Earlier in my life I wanted to know more about what it takes to be a clown, so I attended a course at Johnson County Community College in Kansas City, Kansas, that started my career as a clown. I went on to take additional courses at the University of Wisconsin Eau Clair and actually performed in the circus and in parades. Becoming an athletic administrator I had to put clowning on hold. After I retire, I would like to create a clown ministry and do work in the hospitals and retirement homes. Laughing is fun.
• How has your experience been in making sure that student-athletes have a proper balance among athletics and academics at your institution?
GP: When I started out in athletic administration my first position was, Assistant Athletic Director for Academic Support Services at the University of Cincinnati. I had two great Faculty Athletic Representatives to work with and they helped me to fully understand and embrace the academic commitment that student-athletes are supposed to make while competing as a student athlete. I was a pretty good student-athlete in college, being selected as an All-Conference performer in two sports and being named to the Dean’s List several times throughout my college career. I tell our student-athletes they can excel at both disciplines with the proper commitment and I will do my best to help them by trying to hire the best coaches and provide them the academic support programs they need to complete their degree requirements. We have established an academic honor role recognition program, a mandatory study hall program with evening and daytime hours, a tutoring program with the help of the First Year Experience staff in Provost area and a academic reporting form that faculty complete, giving us a snapshot at what our student-athletes are doing in the classroom.
• Are there any major obstacles that you’ve had to overcome when dealing with Div. III athletics?
GP: Obstacle number one would be budget, we have the lowest budget per capita among our conference schools. We need to find other revenue streams to help compliment our operating budget. Obstacle number two was creating and establishing a partnership with faculty, we wanted them to know and understand that our first priority as coaches is that we support the academic mission and purpose of the institution and that the student’s academic success is paramount for our programs. The third obstacle, was the creation of documents that were not in place upon my arrival. If an organization is going to be successful it needs to have an effective CODE system, its elements are: Communication, Organization, Documentation and Evaluation these are the element that I put in place shortly after my arrival to campus.
• Do you have any hidden talents that very few people know about?
GP: I like to sing, mostly Motown, old school rhythm and blues. I use to be in the college choir, I joined because there were some great looking girls in the choir and it gave me an opportunity for me to get to know them better. Our choir director was a fraternity brother and was well liked on campus the Cheyney Choir was something you wanted to be a part of.
• How did your collegiate experience help to prepare you to be an administrator at the Div. III level?
GP: Cheyney is a small Division II institution; I had the opportunity to know my coaches and professors quite well. All of the coaches there had some other duties to perform along with overseeing their sport. I picked up on the organization and structure of small college athletics and what was needed to run an athletics department back as an undergraduate. My first job in collegiate athletics allowed me to coach football, basketball and I was the assistant intramural director and loved every minute of it.
• What are the toughest issues facing Div. III athletes in today’s world?
GP: Finding financial resources to help run your program is the issue many athletic directors are facing today. As the economic recovery continues to take place, it has left our institution with a enormous financial void, endowments took a significant lose and alumni giving is down, but the cost of running your athletics department has maintained itself or increased during the same period of time. You are finding out how to do more with less.
• What’s currently playing on your I-Pod?
GP: Something in the smooth jazz category although I have an eclectic collection of music with over 1200 songs on my I-Pod. From Broadway to blues, some rap to classical even some county western. Hot Dang!!!
• What are some of the life lessons that you believe student athletes can learn by competing at the Div. III level?
GP: Some of the life skills one can learn while being a Division III Student-Athlete would be teamwork, sacrifice, hard work, being committed, supporting others, developing and understanding the importance of having good organization skills, how to develop and foster relationships, leadership, and the importance of service.