When Andrew Ehling announced that he would be leaving the athletic director position at McPherson College for an opportunity to occupy the same position at New Mexico Highlands University (a Division II school) not many were surprised. Not because of any animosity he held towards McPherson but because of his ability as an athletic director and as a leader. McPherson College President Michael Schneider said after Ehling made his decision, “Andrew has redefined the role of athletic director at McPherson College, I am grateful for the many hours of work on campus to support our coaches and student-athletes, his tireless work serving in the greater McPherson community, and the nights away from home raising money to support our program.” Schneider is the man that gave Ehling the task of transforming Bulldog athletics and transform it he did. He played a major role in renovations, building new facilities, and growing the student-athlete enrollment at Mac College to the highest it has ever been. I wanted to catch up with Ehling before he left for New Mexico and ask him questions about how he’s impacted McPherson College, but also how McPherson College and the surrounding community has impacted him.
How tough was your decision to move your family to New Mexico Highlands University being that you were so enmeshed in not only the college but also the town of McPherson?
Extremely tough. We love McPherson. My wife, Jodi, and I have raised both our kids from birth in McPherson and it is hard to imagine raising them anywhere else, however, we felt the opportunity was something I couldn’t turn down.
What are some of your best memories of being at McPherson?
The birth of my first child is a pretty big deal. HA. Jodi and I bought our first home together in McPherson. And the people of McPherson are incredible. Jodi and I have made some great friends throughout the community.
What are the accomplishments that you’re most proud of at McPherson College?
This is a tough question. The first thing I think of is what my first team accomplished that I coached at McPherson. We only had 16 players on the roster and only five of them were experienced pitchers. We were outmatched in every game but those 16 young men played every out with so much resiliency and for each other. We went 4-35 that season but I will never forget the strong characteristics of that team.
What was the impetus behind creating the eSports program at the college? Where did that inspiration come from?
eSports is rapidly growing collegiately and we’re always looking for ways to better serve our students and grow enrollment at McPherson College. At the time I didn’t know much about eSports but my youngest brother, Lucas, was the one who actually introduced eSports to me. Lucas and I had a lot of conversations about how it would work if we offered eSports at McPherson. With the entrepreneur mindset McPherson College embraces, I approached this idea to the administration and we started eSports.
What are some of the differences you see in the athletic department at McPherson from when you started to now?
We currently have the most student-athlete enrollment in McPherson College history. We have grown with facilities by building our own baseball/softball complex, currently adding three more tennis courts, and gave McPherson Stadium a facelift along with a new ticket booth. Our student-athlete is seeing the most balanced success in history with being very competitive athletically and achieving success in the classroom with 14 of our 15 team receiving KCAC Academic Team honors. We finished 87thlast year in the NAIA Directors Cup which doesn’t sound like great success, finishing 87th but we’ve never finished in the top 100 out of the 250+ NAIA schools.
You got your start as a baseball coach, explain the journey from that position to athletic director?
I gotta tell ya, it blows my mind that I’m an Athletic Director. I thought I would be coaching baseball for the rest of my life. I loved coaching and being around a sport that has heavily influenced me as a person. However, I love to build things by applying a process structured by a vision. I started thinking of ways to grow McPherson College Athletics not only from a baseball standpoint but how athletics fits into the institution as a whole. When I heard that President Schneider and the Board was interested in a full-time AD, I jumped all over it.
What are the challenges you’re looking at ahead of you at your next school?
The challenges at New Mexico Highlands are not unique to collegiate athletics. Building relationships, improving budgets, and facility upgrades will all be an emphasis.