By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico
As an assistant under Harold “Bud” Elliott, Kenneth Oliver had
a chance to come to Eastern New Mexico University in 1994 as an
assistant football coach. But he was doing master’s courses at
Northwest Missouri State, and the timing wasn’t right.
Now, 15 years later, a more seasoned Oliver comes back with his sights on the top sports job at ENMU — athletic director.
“The timing is almost perfect for us,” Oliver said. “I think Eastern’s a situation where good things can happen.”
The current athletic director, dean of students and vice president
of campus life at Central Methodist University in Defiance, Mo., was
the first of four finalists to interview for the position.
Oliver has been at CMU since 1999, when he became an assistant
football and track coach. Other stops include Northwest Missouri State,
William Penn University and Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College, where
he served as a defensive coordinator and assistant softball coach.
He’s hoping to get a chance in Portales to put his coaching days on the backburner.
“I’ve worn many hats, and I don’t fail,” Oliver said. “I don’t mean
that to be arrogant. I like a challenge, and I don’t plan to be here
for just a few years. My goal is to be a 100 percent athletic director
at an NCAA institution.”
Oliver said being an athletic director at Division II appeals to him
because he can still have some interaction with students, and he
considers the Lone Star Conference one of the two premier conferences
in Division II, along with the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletic
He would take over an athletic program where only two teams — the
LSC tournament-bound Greyhounds baseball squad and the Zias’ softball
team — posted winning records this season.
“Eastern’s in a downward spiral,” Oliver said. “I think it can be
stopped and I think you can change it quickly. Can you get to the top
in two years? Maybe not. But can you get to the top five? Definitely.”
Some ideas Oliver would want to implement in the department would
include listing an athlete’s major in press releases, having honorary
coaches from the community for teams and four separate evaluations for
coaches each year (self, mid-year, end-of-year and student).
Also, he’d want to communicate with every facet of the university.
“I will know every faculty member by the end of the first year,”
Oliver said. “I will be in their offices. If they’ve got something bad
(or a suggestion) about athletics, I want them to say it to my face.”
One rule Oliver instituted at the school was that coaches had to
call him or send him a text message at the conclusion of games. Early
on, he found coaches would happily call in wins and send short texts
“Now, they’ll text me when they win,” he said, “and they’ll call me
when they lose because they want to talk about it. They know I care.”