“Being athletic director and head football coach, you can’t be 100 percent in both. I put in a lot of hours, but you just can’t do it all,” Eisele said.
Eisele, who joined the Knox athletic department in 2006, had spent the past three seasons pulling double duty as the head football coach and athletic director, a rare feat for a college program.
“It was always understood to be a temporary fix,” President Teresa Amott said. “It was partly a response, like so many here at Knox, to financial stresses. So he agreed to take on what were essentially two full time jobs.”
The financial stresses that Amott describes refer to the fact that up until recent yearsm, Knox has struggled to ensure full-time positions for all 21 participating sports.
According to Eisele, he knew at the time he took the position that it would only be temporary, and that the current struggles of the football program had little to do with his final decision.
“Whether we were 7-1 or 1-7, this was going to be the decision I was going to make,” Eisele said. “When I took the [head coaching job], I knew it was only going to be for a short time. I came here to be the athletic director seven years ago, and that’s what I’m going to do now,” he said.
While Amott appreciated Eisele’s dedication to the football program, she fully supported his decision.
“We all agreed that it was a very impressive show of loyalty and dedication to the campus, but that nobody thought it was ideal. It was my preference frankly to return to a more traditional approach to these two positions,” Amott said.
“There were certainly times where there were football things that needed to be taken care of that I couldn’t be there because I had other duties,” Eisele said.
Eisele revealed his choice during homecoming week alongside the announcement of the $1.6 million dollar donation from late trustee and Knox alum Vernon Stisser ‘62.
“The [Stisser donation] does provide resources that will go into this. The timing of [Eisele’s preference to step down from the head coaching job] combined with the availability of funds brought it all to a head,” Amott said.
Moving forward, having a full-time head coach should provide improvements across many different areas for the Knox athletic program.
“It’s going to enhance the department with me being able to concentrate on being the athletic director,” Eisele said. “It will give me better opportunities to mentor our staff, to build better relationships with our student athletes overall, to build better relationships with our alumni and supporters, those things are really the most important.”
From a performance perspective, Eisele also knows the administration has shown increased support for improvements.
“President Amott has made it a point that she wants the athletic department to be more successful. She has helped us create positions to help us move in that direction. I think we are going to start seeing the benefits very soon,” Eisele said.
“I think we all recognize the quality of the student-athlete experience is connected to whether you are winning or losing, but that’s just part of it. It’s connected to how the team interacts; it’s connected to whether or not [athletes] feel the coaching staff is helping them improve,” Amott said.
With schools like Lake Forest, Monmouth, Illinois College, Grinnell and Beloit all competing with Knox not only on the field but also for students, Amott also feels that improving the athletic program will help Knox appeal to prospective students.
“If the quality of [the student-athlete experience] is high, then it helps recruit new students, Amott said.” We are looking for student-athletes, but so is everyone else, and to the extent that we can improve the experience, we will improve bringing in students to campus.”
As the process of finding a new coach continues, Amott has chosen, as she has for recent openings in men’s soccer and basketball teams, to leave the Xs and Os to the search committees before increasing her involvement when the process has gotten down to its final candidates.
“I can’t tell you very much about football strategy, but I can tell an inspirational leader when I see one, and that’s what we’re looking for,” Amott said. “I hope to meet in person [with the final candidates] to get a sense of whether they understand division three athletics: do they understand the principles of enhancing the student’s academic experience that is at the heart of our program? Do they understand that they are not coaching simply football, but life.”