Autumn 2007: Eagles Score
More of a Good Thing
New director of athletics catches commitment to ‘Athletics for All’
By Alec T. Young 03OX 05C
When Tim Downes arrived in August as Emory’s new director of athletics and recreation, his first lesson was to learn to relax.
Throughout his career, Downes has tackled programs that required big changes, such as building facilities and staff. “That is not the case here,” he says. “The biggest challenge here is working with a program that doesn’t need major fixes. From the beginning, Emory’s program was built the right way. In my mind, it embodies everything that is right and good about college athletics.”
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With all that the athletics program has going for it, Downes notes, Emory, like almost every Division III institution in the county, is searching for new ways to get fans into the stands. Building Emory’s fan base and overall campus spirit is something that Downes must think about in every aspect of developing his department.
Not surprisingly, Downes has played a range of sports, but his love is lacrosse. “When you grow up in Baltimore,” he says, “you don’t have a choice—you play lacrosse.” Downes’s small high school (there were thirty-eight students in his graduating class) boasted one of the best lacrosse teams in the country. Downes earned his BA in government and English in 1988 from Dartmouth College, where he was a four-year starter on the men’s varsity lacrosse team. As a senior, he was named to the All-New England team.
Following graduation, he served as assistant coach for the lacrosse and soccer programs at Washington and Lee University while attending the law school. Although Downes has given up lacrosse for what he calls more “pedantic activities,” he still keeps his first wooden lacrosse stick in his car, just in case he might happen by a game.
Prior to joining Emory, Downes worked for three years as athletic director at Franklin and Marshall, where he spearheaded the creation of the Brooks Tennis Center, a renovation of the school’s squash facility, and the planning and subsequent construction of a new synthetic turf athletic field.
Downes quickly recognized the strength of Emory’s coaches. “It’s my job to create an environment where our coaching staff can be as successful as they want to be,” he says.
And he has clearly caught the spirit of “Athletics for All,” the motto that has served as the foundation for Emory’s sports programs. “At the Division III level, it is more about the personal experience: your roommate who is down on the court or someone you knew from freshman year in the pool,” Downes says. “We can offer something for every interest and skill level in terms of athletics.”
Even if students get involved just to swim laps, work out, or take a yoga class, he believes the athletics program can reach every person in the community.
On a broader level, Downes says, “I hope to establish Emory as the model athletic and recreation program for Division III schools across the country. It is part of our mission as an entire university to be innovative and to do things that make other people stand up and take notice.”