Higgins resigns from his FLC post

Skyhawks’ athletic director steps down after a three-year run

Fort Lewis College athletic director Kelly Higgins was all smiles during the 2010 NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Championships in St. Joseph, Mo. FLC finished runner-up in the national championship game, one of two national championships he presided over during his tenure at the school. He watched the FLC men’s soccer team win it all in 2009. On Wednesday, he tendered his resignation from the school. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Herald file

Fort Lewis College athletic director Kelly Higgins was all smiles during the 2010 NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Championships in St. Joseph, Mo. FLC finished runner-up in the national championship game, one of two national championships he presided over during his tenure at the school. He watched the FLC men’s soccer team win it all in 2009. On Wednesday, he tendered his resignation from the school.

Kelly Higgins has done pretty well for himself during his three-year run as athletic director at Fort Lewis College:

b FLC won the 2009 NCAA Division II Men’s Soccer Championships;

b FLC finished runner-up at the 2010 NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Championships;

b FLC qualified four teams – men’s and women’s basketball, men’s golf, women’s soccer – for the NCAA playoffs this last academic year, and both the men’s golf and women’s soccer programs reached the elite eight in their respective sports.

Higgins tendered his resignation as FLC athletic director Wednesday, effective Aug. 31. The appointment of an interim athletic director and news of the search for his permanent replacement will be made in the near future.

“It was a hard decision,” Higgins said in a phone interview with The Durango Herald on Wednesday night.

“I’ve got a son in Dayton (Ohio), a daughter at Truman State (Kirsville, Mo.), a wife in Omaha (Neb.) and a job and a condo here,” he said. “It just makes you wonder, ‘Are you living it all well enough?’”

In a news release, Higgins thanked former FLC President Dr. Brad Bartel and current FLC President Dr. Dene Kay Thomas “for the opportunity to serve this great community, the incredible student-athletes and their families, as well as some of the best coaches I’ve had the privilege to work with the past 3˝ years.”

Higgins was hired in 2007 and assumed the athletic director position March 1, 2008. He previously worked at American University, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, the University of South Dakota and the University of the District of Columbia. He also was the assistant commissioner of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference – FLC’s conference – in 1993-94.

Higgins, a two-sport collegiate athlete in baseball and football, graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1981.

Over the last academic year, 52 student-athletes from FLC received academic all-conference accolades, and eight of the school’s 11 varsity programs maintained a grade point average of 3.00 or better. Graduation rates have risen to the highest level in FLC athletics history.

“Real joy came from helping those few really special student-athletes find their way through their own personal struggles in school and/or in their lives, and then watching them as they graduated,” Higgins wrote on his online blog. “They know who they are and I want them to know their success means more to me than they could possibly imagine.”

Higgins plans to continue his career in either college athletics or investment advising.

“It’s been a great ride, and I will always hold a special place in my heart for my time at FLC, but it’s time to go and leave the reins to another.” Higgins said in the news release. “I wish all true Skyhawks nothing but the best.”

During his tenure at FLC, Higgins overswaw eight RMAC regular-season titles, four RMAC West Division titles, seven RMAC postseason tournaments, 13 NCAA postseason tournaments, and the Skyhawks hosted NCAA regionals five times.

“I love this place,” Higgins told the Herald on Wednesday night. “I love these people. We’ve accomplished some extraordinary things together.”

heraldsports@ durangoherald.com

Kelly Higgins wipes down the bleachers in preparation for an NCAA women’s regional basketball game at Fort Lewis College. Higgins presided over five NCAA regionals in Durango during his three-year run at FLC. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Herald file

Kelly Higgins wipes down the bleachers in preparation for an NCAA women’s regional basketball game at Fort Lewis College. Higgins presided over five NCAA regionals in Durango during his three-year run at FLC.

Fort Lewis College athlectic director Kelly Higgins celebrates with his 2009 NCAA Division II national-championship men’s soccer team in Tampa, Fla. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Herald file

Fort Lewis College athlectic director Kelly Higgins celebrates with his 2009 NCAA Division II national-championship men’s soccer team in Tampa, Fla.

Kelly Higgins thanks a group of middle school students from St. Joseph, Mo., who showed up to support the FLC women’s basketball team in the 2010 national championship game. FLC, through the NCAA, did a community outreach program with the middle school while at the elite eight. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Herald file

Kelly Higgins thanks a group of middle school students from St. Joseph, Mo., who showed up to support the FLC women’s basketball team in the 2010 national championship game. FLC, through the NCAA, did a community outreach program with the middle school while at the elite eight.