Sports information background paved way to head position

A sportswriter can become a playwright (Damon Runyon), a poet (Grantland Rice) or even an NBA general manager (David Kahn). But it’s not often that one becomes a commissioner of a college athletic conference.

“I never really considered myself a sportswriter,” says Dave Haglund, distancing himself from the dreaded section of the Fourth Estate. “But it gave me a start toward a profession I love.”HAGLUND

Haglund, 55, is in his fourth year as commissioner of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, a member of the NCAA’s Division II. There are 11 members representing five states plus British Columbia, along with affiliates in football (four) and soccer (one). Western Oregon is the state’s sole member until Concordia joins in the fall.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” says Haglund, a graduate of Central Catholic High and Oregon State University. “I like the work and the challenge of helping our schools promote their programs.”

Haglund spent four years as a sports clerk at The Oregon Journal and was a sportswriter for the Oregon State daily, The Barometer. His first week at the Journal was in June 1977, when the Trail Blazers were in the midst of their NBA finals series with the Philadelphia 76ers.

But much of his career was spent working in college sports information — first at his alma mater, then at Fresno State and Maryland.

Haglund’s interest in sports dates to his years playing tennis at Central Catholic and his association with then-Rams basketball coach Paul Gloden.

“Paul was my Greek mythology teacher,” Haglund says. “He needed someone to keep stats at his games. That got me interested in that part of the sports industry.”

At Oregon State, Haglund worked as a student assistant in the sports information department under John Eggers and Hal Cowan.

“It was great training,” Haglund says. OSU’s Hall of Fame basketball coach “Ralph Miller would come up to our office and sit in my chair to meet with the media after games. I worked extensively with (Hall of Fame wrestling coach) Dale Thomas. I was mesmerized by it all.”

That experience led to his first job as assistant sports information director at Fresno State under Scott Johnson, who later became the Bulldogs’ athletic director. Haglund spent 16 years at Fresno State, becoming SID in 1988. During his time there, he worked with such coaches as Jim Sweeney (football), Boyd Grant (basketball) and Bob Bennett (baseball), the latter in the midst of 26 straight winning seasons at the diamond helm.

“Sweeney built that football stadium,” Haglund says. “We were sold out in basketball during the Grant years. We went to the College World Series twice. We had good teams and community support. I had a great time there.”

In 1998, Haglund left for Maryland, where he served five years as SID, then 10 years as supervisor of sports and support units. Haglund wears an Orange Bowl watch, the result of Ralph Friedgen’s first season as football coach, when the Terrapins went 10-2 and won the Atlantic Coast Conference championship.

“I had a broad cross-section of duties at Maryland, from media relations to helping coaches (in 12 sports) manage their programs,” Haglund says. “I worked with sports medicine and strength and conditioning, too. It was good training for what I’m doing now.”

Looking for a return to the West Coast with Cindy and their two children, Samantha and Matthew, Haglund took a job as the first full-time commissioner of the NAIA Cascade Conference in 2007. Among the 11 members schools are seven in Oregon — Concordia, Corban, Eastern Oregon, Northwest Christian, Oregon Institute of Technology, Southern Oregon and Warner Pacific.

Working from his home in Clackamas, Haglund spent five years overseeing a conference that was competitive on the NAIA level and hosted national championship events in cross country and men’s golf.

In 2012, Haglund assumed his current post with the GNAC, which was formed in 2001 and features 14 sports — seven women’s and men’s, including football. Until Concordia joins next season, Western Oregon is the state’s only representative in a league that includes Seattle Pacific, Central Washington, Alaska Anchorage, Western Washington, Northwest Nazarene, Simon Fraser, Alaska Anchorage, Saint Martin’s and Montana State Billings.

“The presidents let me move the conference office from Spokane to Portland,” Haglund says. “We have one of the largest geographic footprints in Division II athletics, where we have more resources than do the NAIA schools. We have some very good programs that make for a great league.”

There are only six GNAC schools that play football and only three from the core membership — Western Oregon, Central Washington and Simon Fraser, the latter the only Canadian school competing on the NCAA level. Affiliates Azusa Pacific, Humboldt State, South Dakota Mines and Dixie State fill out the football conference.

“Football is a challenge at the D-II level in the Western U.S.,” Haglund says. “There aren’t as many programs. There are a lot of long bus trips. Dixie and South Dakota Mines are moving to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference after the 2015 season, so we’ll go to five teams and play a double round-robin. Not ideal, but it’s what we have to do.”

For nonleague games, the GNAC is working on an arrangement with the Lone Star Conference, which has teams such as Texas A&M-Commerce, Texas A&M-Kingsville and Angelo State.

“They have similar bye dates throughout the season,” he says. “We need each other.”

Haglund’s job is far-reaching.

“It’s the overall administration of the league,” he says. “I touch so many things during the course of a week — scheduling, officiating, public relations. I get to all of our schools every year. I spend about 100 days on the road.”

Beginning next season, the GNAC will feature schools located in the largest cities in its five states — Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska — plus British Columbia.

“That’s helpful for exposure, but we’re working on that, trying to develop our corporate sponsorship program,” Haglund says. “This level is so much different than Division I. We don’t get the coverage we think we might deserve. Just a fact of life.”

The GNAC has received exposure the last two years through an arrangement with Root Sports, which carries a 10-game men’s and women’s basketball package.

“Root is in our footprint, in the same five states we’re in,” Haglund says. “We appreciate that relationship.”

Haglund says he is “ecstatic” with the impending addition of Concordia. The Cavaliers “offer all of our sports but football. They have really good programs, with great leadership there. It’s a tremendous addition to our conference.”

So has been Haglund, a one-time sportswriter who has made good since his start at the Oregon Journal nearly four decades ago.

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