Published 8:25 am Thursday, August 28, 2014
MURFREESBORO – Ozzie McFarland thought he’d be finishing his career in athletics education as a college professor.
After all the Shelby native had been a former athlete, a baseball coach, a sports information director, and an athletic director at his alma mater, Gardner-Webb University, in the western part of the state.
All this was before he came east to get his doctorate at East Carolina and teach at Chowan University three years ago.
But the lure of athletic administration was strong medicine indeed, and in September of 2013 Chowan University president, Dr. Christopher White appointed McFarland as eight-year Vice-President and Athletics Director Dennis Helsel’s successor.
McFarland had actually followed Dr. White east from GWU three years ago and at the time of his appointment was an instructor in the Chowan Sports Studies and Physical Education department while pursuing his doctorate at ECU.
“I asked Dr. White and our Chief Financial Officer Donnie Clary had you ever seen a campus with as much going on as Chowan has this spring and summer,” McFarland says.
The university improvements weren’t exclusively for athletics: there is a new water pipe system for the campus being installed.
“I can say this,” McFarland reasoned. “There’s no question that athletics has contributed to this campus’ growth and it’s certainly an emphasis of ours to continue that growth through athletics. If we have more people on our sports teams, that adds money to the school’s coffers that allows the school to do things it couldn’t do otherwise. I and Dr. White have emphasized to our coaches how important it is that we continue to increase our squad size; and honestly I can tell you no one works harder than our coaches.”
“Chowan learned a certain attitude that we all pitch in and do everything,” he continued. “You never say that something is not my job; and now that we’ve grown and prospered we still have that same attitude.”
McFarland says he succeeded at his previous post because of an ‘open-door’ policy with his student-athletes, his coaches, and his staff.
“Our SAAC (Student Athlete Advisory Committee) once or twice a year meet with our trustees to go over what their issues are and we’ve tried to address every issue that we possibly could,” he emphasizes. “In a lot of ways we do it to try to show (student-athletes) that we care. There are money issues we face like everybody does, but we’ve been able to do so many things that I hope all of the athletes will come back and know that we are supportive of them; I know I am and that Dr. White is. I don’t think you’ll find a president more supportive of athletics than he is.”
McFarland reorganized the fund-raising arm of the university from ‘Hawks Haven’, which it had been since the mascot-name change in 2006, to the Brave Hawks Club; harkening back to the old mascot from the Chowan College days while implementing the new.
“We pinch as many dollars as we can, but our budgets have made some steady improvements, and our campus is the same way,” he says. “The key to being competitive is getting good coaches and having scholarships and that’s what we have here. You give coaches the scholarship money they need to recruit with and they’ll make things happen. We’ve seen it with men’s and women’s basketball and with football. If we can have another good year of scholarships then we’re going to be right up there with everybody and we’re going to scare a lot of people and that’s our goal.”
McFarland predicts that this will be the best year in Chowan’s history as a four-year institution, not just in athletics.
“It’s a lot easier to build things behind the scenes and wait on it,” he noted. “I’m not saying each of these sports will have a great season; but they’ll have an opportunity to have one of the best years that they’ve had in a long time as a four-year institution. It’s a good time for people to come out to see us, and we hope they’ll join the Brave Hawks Club.”
Named Director of Athletics at GWU in 1990, McFarland saw the Bulldogs win South Atlantic Conference titles in football (1992), and men’s basketball (1991-1992). He received the Gardner-Webb Athletic Hall of Fame’s Meritorious Service Award in 2007 and also worked with the Shelby American Legion World Series committee. Now he wants to translate that success to Murfreesboro.
“There are things I learned (at Gardner-Webb), and I think one of the best things I learned is how to work with people to get things done,” he declared. “I was comfortable in the classroom, but working with Dr. White, our coaches and staff and it’s as good as it gets. I’m going to enjoy this and have fun. I can honestly tell you that because of our staff if I took a day off 95 percent of the people wouldn’t know I wasn’t here.”
McFarland says there’s a different vision at Chowan now.
“When teams get really close to the edge of being good they don’t know it until something clicks,” he said. “If we make sure all the right pieces and dollars are in place, then in ten years people won’t recognize Chowan like ten years ago, they wouldn’t recognize it now.”