PITTSFIELD — Williams College is a small school with a large athletic program.
The college, which competes in NCAA Division 3, fields athletic teams in 32 sports, just four fewer than Division 1 powerhouse Ohio State, whose self-sufficient athletic department has an $80 million budget.
It's not easy keeping track of and getting information out on so many teams in so many sports at any school, but at Williams that task falls to Dick Quinn, who has been the college's sports information director since 1989.
He originally entered college athletics through an internship program at the Eastern College Athletic Conference in the late 1970s. In 2009, Quinn became the first Division 3 sports information director to be inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame. He holds a master's degree in communication arts.
We talked with the Williamstown native recently about why he became a sports information director, what the job entails, and why he likes it so much.
Q: Why did you want to be a sports information director?
A: After 10 years as an assistant and associate athletic director at NCAA Division 1 schools (Marist College and Iona College) I decided to pursue other options in collegiate sports.
Q: What does a sports information director do and what responsibilities come with the position?
A: My job as the sports information director and associate director in the communications office at Williams is to publicize and promote the Williams College varsity athletic program that consists of 32 sports.
Q: You grew up in Williamstown. Was it your goal to work at Williams or did it just work out that way?
A: I always respected the Williams' academics first approach and their broad-based athletic program. While looking for a change, my family home in Williamstown became available. My wife, Kathy, and I decided that Williamstown would be a great place to raise our five children. Just before we moved to Williamstown the Williams job opened and I was thrilled to apply.
Q: Did you follow Williams sports growing up?
A: I went to a lot of Williams athletic events growing up because it was exciting to see a higher level of play. Back then, there was an admission charge. My friends and I had to get creative to "sneak" into games. One trick for football was to wait for the band to march down Spring Street, and as it neared the gate to Weston Field we would just slide in with the band and pretend we were supposed to be there. The energy surrounding each Williams contest was something I had not previously witnessed even watching high school sports as a kid.
Q: Were you a high school athlete?
A: I played baseball, basketball and football at Mount Greylock. I was fortunate to be captain of the 1969 Western Mass. Small School Basketball Championship team with Ken Anderson from Lanesborough. That team remains the only championship boys basketball team at Greylock. I would love to see that drought end for the Mounties. I went to Holy Cross but I did not play sports there.
Q: You moved around a lot before you came to Williams 33 years ago. What did you learn at the various stops along the way, and how have they shaped your career at Williams?
A: What I gained, first and foremost, was an appreciation for all the work that goes on behind the scenes to field, compete and promote on the college level. Before coming to Williams I was unsettled by the number of inequities at other athletic programs. Williams Sports Information focuses on providing support for each of its 32 teams.
Q: How does what you do at Williams differ from the same job at a Division 1 school?
A: Although many of the duties are similar, the Division 1 schools would have a professional staff in their sports information office. At Williams, I supervise a very competent student staff. They are able to write game stories, take photos, create videos, compile in-game stats and more.
Q: How many students work in sports information at Williams?
A: Last year we had 97 students work in Eph Sports Information. Right now we have 53 student workers, but we're only in the fall season. We have writers, stat crews, color commentators, videographers, photographers and some office workers to update our website and social media accounts.
Q: Why do you have so many?
A: The demand for information and the ability to provide webcasts along with creating and maintaining social media accounts has ramped up the workload tremendously. The Eph Sports Information site on Williams.edu is the most visited sub-portal year in and year out. It's usually well over two million a year and sometimes over three million. (The college's athletic teams are called the Ephs, after Col. Ephraim Williams, for whom the school is named.)
Q: What's it been like working with the students?
A: The best part of my job is getting to know and work with the students in Eph Sports Information. Second best is getting to know the athletes and behind-the-scenes personnel who wear the Williams purple with so much pride. Many of those folks have remained in touch over the years and have offered their support to Williams sports in their future endeavors.
Q: Have you ever thought of doing your job at a higher collegiate level or for a professional sports team?
A: No. I live in the house I grew up in and walk to work. I work with the best kids in the country in Eph Sports Information and we get to cover other kids who are here for academics first. Believe me, the kids who are competing for Williams want to win as much as anyone else in college athletics, but they came to Williams for the combined academic and athletic excellence here that is beyond compare.
No other college or university has ever been ranked No. 1 nationally in academics and won the Learfield Sports Directors Cup, which is awarded for program-wide athletic success. Williams has done that 20 times. (The Learfield Sports Directors Cup is awarded each year to the top school in NCAA Division 1, Division 2 and Division 3 based on points awarded for each institution's finish in NCAA tournaments. Williams has previously won the trophy in Division 3.)
Q: What do you like the most about doing your job at Williams?
A: Ironically, what I like best is also the thing I feared the most when taking the job — relying on student workers. It continues to be a privilege to get to know and work with such extraordinary young folks from all over the world.
Additionally, there's something special about Williams that creates a culture of respect and support across the entire campus. That culture extends beyond the borders into the community. For example, a highlight each fall is our annual block party welcoming new Williams families to the neighborhood.