Sept. 20, 2010
The end of an Era
By David Boyce
The road is often symbolic for life's journeys. A perfect example will be Dr. Bob Boerigter's travels on Monday.
He will rise early, say goodbye to his wife and head south on Highway 71 and then Interstate 29.
Each mile will take him further away from Maryville where he spent 9 years as athletic director and closer to Kansas City where he begins his new job as MIAA commissioner.
Boerigter says he prefers to look forward. But with Maryville in his rearview mirror, how could he not look back and reminisce until he at least passes the Savannah exit.
"You end up trying to focus on what is ahead instead of what is behind," Boerigter said. "I'm making mental notes I need to take care of, mostly transition in terms of what's next for me in the MIAA job. It excites me."
Boerigter, though, has human feelings.
"I walk every day," he said. "In the private moments, I'm finding myself being very reflective and thinking of the good people I worked with and those exciting moments I enjoyed so much. Those times become kind of emotional. You try to do those in private if I can."
So many memories are packed in those 9 years for him. The five straight trips the football team made to the NCAA Division II championship game in Florence, Ala., are obvious.
The emotional joy that erupted when the Bearcats finally reached the top of Division II football again in 2009 will surely remain ebbed in Boerigter's mind.
And then there is the Fall Classic at Arrowhead. It was Boerigter's vision that has made the annual clash between Northwest Missouri and Pittsburg State at Arrowhead Stadium into a second homecoming game for both universities.
He's hired some energetic young coaches like Ben McCollum in men's basketball and Jessica Rinehart in volleyball.
Finally, there are the people at Northwest Missouri and in Maryville that will live in Boerigter forever. He made plenty of friends during his nearly decade stay.
They call him, Dr. Bob. It's a simple name tag that endeared him to so many people in Maryville. Those feelings stick.
"It's hard when you invested time and energy with so many people," Boerigter said. "You care about those folks. They are very dear to you. It's not an easy thing."
But somewhere along the way on his drive to the MIAA office in downtown Kansas City, Boerigter's thoughts will shift to the conference.
He's jumping right into his work as conference commissioner. He has to. With the conference planning to expand to 16 teams, Boerigter doesn't have the luxury of settling in.
Boerigter doesn't even have time to spend his first day on the job in the office. He will be back on the road sometime Monday afternoon, heading east on I-70 to St. Charles, Mo. He's visiting Lindenwood, one of the schools expected to join the MIAA.
"I had tentatively been scheduled to go on the visit anyway just as my responsibilities as athletic director, but now I will be going in my role as commissioner," Boerigter said. "We will have activities Monday night and then all day Tuesday. Tuesday is part of the membership process.
"We got a list of things (in the MIAA office) we got to get on right away."
So really, Boerigter's time to dwell on the past is limited. He said he wants to continue the strong leadership he inherited from former MIAA commissioner Jim Johnson, who is now the athletic director at Pittsburg State.
And really, Boerigter hasn't left Maryville for good. He will make many trips back as he transitions from a quaint, small town to city living. His wife will stay in Maryville until she finds another job and they sell their house.
Also, his commissioner duties will take him to Maryville from time to time.
But he will no longer walk on campus wearing a Bearcat shirt. Those days are left to memories.
He leaves behind a staff that has the utmost respect for the way he ran the Northwest Missouri athletic program.
"He brought a lot of class, not that we didn't have it before. He's such a classy individual," Northwest Missouri football coach Mel Tjeerdsma said.
"He's such a good speaker and such a great ambassador for Northwest. He served on a lot of committees for the NCAA and the MIAA. Those are all great qualities for him to be a great commissioner."
Assistant athletic director Mark Clements was hired by Boerigter 8 years ago and spoke of him the way you hope you feel about any boss you have ever had.
"I've always said that he's probably the best boss I've ever had from the standpoint that he has a passion for what he does, but yet he lets you do your job," Clements said. "Until you need some help, he lets you do your thing. He's not looking over your shoulders. He lets you spread your wings and fly a little bit.
"He's the consummate educator. He's always willing to take the time to discuss things with you and share some insight. On top of that, he takes your ideas. It's not about him; it's about the bigger picture."
The picture now for Boerigter is the MIAA. The quest is to keep it as one of the best, if not the best, NCAA Division II conferences in the country.
While the current 12 universities are very competitive with each other on the athletic field, they take pride as a whole of being in the running for national titles in just about all the sports.
The MIAA is taking steps to ensure the conference remains viable in a changing college environment.
"This is a critical time for our conference because it looks like we are going to be a 16-team league and there are a lot of decisions to be made other than adding the teams," Tjeerdsma said. "I don't know if we could have a better individual in there now with the experience he's got and the knowledge he has of our conference and how it functions.
"His organization skills are very good. He's just real professional in everything he does. He's very consistent in how he does things. That makes it real easy for coaches to adapt. You know what you are going to get with Dr. Bob. That's been really important for all of us."
Sure, Boerigter will face many new challenges this school year. Some people will obviously be against the expansion.
Others will have plenty of questions on how the expansion will benefit the MIAA.
Parents of underclassmen will wonder how travel will change. Winters can be pretty rough in the Midwest.
Every single question will be important to that individual.
The steadying calm of Boerigter makes him perfect for the task.
"His sense of humor is refreshing," Clements said. "Everybody can get a little wound up about things. He's able to keep a positive outlook on things every day. Even if he's having a bad day, he doesn't let people know that he's having a bad day, which helps us all.
"Most people don't realize he's 62-years-old. He doesn't look it and he doesn't act it. What I mean by he doesn't act it is most people who get to that point in their life get stuck in a rut. He's always willing to look at change."
Or put another way, Boerigter embraces the idea of traveling down the road of new opportunities.
David Boyce spent more than 20 years covering high school and small college athletics at the Kansas City Star newspaper in Missouri. He's covered six of Northwest Missouri State's seven national championship football games and recently served as a guest columnist for the MIAA.
Boyce was named KIAAA Sportswriter of the Year in 1994. He covered boxing at the Star from 1991-2004 including Tommy Morrison and worked both championship fights between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. His 1997 exclusive story on Morrison becoming HIV positive was named an Associated Press Sports Editor top 10 feature for papers serving more than 150,000.
Boyce was born in New York City and was raised in Kansas City, Kan. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1988 with a degree in journalism. He is currently one of three official scorers for the Kansas City Royals and is a contributing writer for the Royals Gameday magazine.
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