Gene Taylor knows about winning. He led NDSU to one of its most successful years in school history last year. He was named athletic director of the year for the FCS region. As if that’s not enough, he still finds time to volunteer in the community and is helping complete a $32 million renovation of the athletics program. Taylor is a huge reason for the success of NDSU athletics and any Bison fan should pick up his tab when you see him out. So step inside the life of Taylor and discover a little more about the man behind the sports.
BI: After the success of last year and all the awards, do you feel a lot of pressure going into this year?
Taylor: That’s a great question. I don’t feel any pressure. You have a year like that and you look back and you appreciate it, maybe not as much while you’re going through it as you do when it’s all said and done. You hope you can have a similar year. That was a phenomenal year, and it would be great to do it again. But, we know how difficult it is, yet those expectations are good to see, and hopefully we can meet them. If we do, great, and if we exceed them, even better. Our coaches are great at saying, ‘OK, that was last year, this is this year. We have different players, we have different schedules and we have different issues. I think they’re pretty good at compartmentalizing that. Our fan bases, they want to keep winning and that’s a good thing. That’s what makes us a special program.
BI: You were named the Under Armour FCS Region Athletics Director of the Year and also won the NDSU Blue Key Society Doctor of Service Award, how did that feel?
Taylor: It’s always nice to be recognized by your peers, which the Under Armour award was. Those are based on the successes of our programs, so it’s always a little bit of a mixed feeling. You feel great obviously even though you didn’t really do that much because your coaches and athletes were the ones that got you recognized. So that award in particular was certainly nice and I always appreciate it. I think the Blue Key touched me as much as any award I’ve ever received, because it was given by students and non-athletes. That was not only touching because of the type of award it was, but the fact that I had absolutely no idea. So that award was a little different than the other one. It’s always nice to be recognized. A lot of that has to do with whom you’re surrounded by and I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by a great staff that I come to work with on a daily basis.
BI: Do you have a motto you live your life by?
Taylor: I guess I always try to do the right thing. Whatever that is. Sometimes the right thing is making a difficult decision. Really being as fair as I can be, whether it is a situation with a coach or athlete. Trying to be a good listener and really just being there. My role is to give everything I can, so everyone has the best opportunity to do their job. Give them direction when they need it, stay out of their way if they need it, give them advice if they need it, but not overlook their shoulders. At the same time making sure I’m there if they need advice, direction or help. Really just trying to stay out of their way. We have very talented folks here. Very talented coaches, support staff, administrators and many times I have to sit back and say, ‘wow, I’m pretty fortunate.’
BI: Talk about the Edge Program.
Taylor: This is our capital fundraising campaign for our Sanford Health Athletic Complex. Our theme for this campaign is “Building the Competitive Edge.” If we get these buildings done we’re going to have the competitive edge over our competitors. We’re in the last stages of fundraising and obviously the track will be open sometime this fall. Our goal is to have the fundraising completed in the next couple months, so we can get the remaining Sanford Health construction started in the spring.
BI: How close are you to meeting the goal?
Taylor: We’re close enough that we can see it, but, yet, the dollars are still big enough that we need a couple of people to step up to get us there as soon as we can. Numbers change daily. We’re close enough if things go right in the next couple of months we can get this thing on the street in the terms of the bidding process.
BI: Do you think having a new athletic complex will attract new recruits to NDSU?
Taylor: Our coaches have done a great job recruiting with
the facility that we have. I think the upgrades will certainly add to that. We bring in good quality athletes, but we have lost some due to our facilities. Some kids come here and their high school facilities tend to be bigger and more modern. It will add another tool for those coaches to recruit. They already recruit to a great program, great coaching and a great institution.
BI: What’s your favorite part of the job?
Taylor: It’s kind of a combination of going to practices and watching the players get better and seeing them compete and have success. There’s nothing better than watching our kids win championships. Absolutely nothing better.
3 Things You May Not Know About Gene Taylor:
Since Taylor came to NDSU, the athletic program’s budget has tripled from $5 million to $15 million. In addition, the program has seen a rise in the scholarship endowment, which has grown to $11.2 million. The Team Makers Booster Club support has also seen an increase from $750,000 to $2.3 million.
Before coming to NDSU, Taylor worked as a student assistant to the associate athletic director, at his alma mater, Arizona State. Following his time at ASU, Taylor worked for a short period of time at Southern Methodist University, and then accepted a position at Navy. During his time at Navy, Taylor worked as an administrative assistant, assistant ticket manager, ticket manager, assistant athletic director for tickets and operations and associate athletic director.
In 2008, Taylor received the AstroTurf AD of the Year Award, as the Football Championship Subdivision Central Region Winner.