Bush Reflects On 24 Years At H-SC
As Athletics Director at Hampden-Sydney College, Joe Bush found what fit for him.
More importantly, he was smart enough to realize it.
Bush will end nearly a quarter-century of association with the school at the end of the semester. He made his decision to retire public last week.
“At 67-years-old, I just feel like it's a good time,” said Bush. “I want to spend time with the grandkids and do some traveling. It's a good time to go.”
Arriving on the campus as football coach in 1986, and assuming the duties as athletics director in 1992 (retiring from his football coaching duties in 1996), Bush leaves a program that fits his personality like a comfortable shoe.
“I believe this is the best job in Division III,” said Bush. “This is a place that wants to have a strong athletics program, and they back it up with the needed support. That doesn't happen everywhere.”
In his 24 years at the school Bush has worn many hats, seen many changes both at the school and in the world of Division III, and guided the program through many ups and a few downs.
Last year, every team sponsored by the school had a winning record. The Virginia Sports Information Directors Association cited the program last summer for having the highest men's winning percentage of all non-Division I schools in the state. Facilities are some of the best among non-D-I schools in the region.
Bush is quick to deflect all of that to others.
“We have some great coaches here,” said Bush. “That's perhaps what I'll miss the most. My relationship with those coaches. We've got a good bunch here, and I really enjoy being with them.”
In his 24 years, Bush has seen a number of program-defining events on the campus. Too many to whittle down to one big moment. Sure, the two Final Four appearances by the basketball team stand out, but for him the achievements by the olympic sports are just as important.
“I'll always remember the win over Randolph-Macon in the 100th game. We had 14,000 people there and after we won, they tore down the goalposts, but one that I'm especially proud of is two years ago when our tennis team beat Washington & Lee and ended their run on top of the ODAC. That was something that doesn't get a lot of attention, but it was big to the people in the program and it was big to me.”
Bush mentioned the baseball team's College World Series appearance and the 10-0 football season in 2009.
“There are too many to mention, and I'll think of a lot more, I'm sure. What it does say, is that we have a well-balanced athletics department. We want to see all the sports we field do well. It doesn't matter if it's basketball, football or cross country. We want to be competing for conference titles in every one of them and represent ourselves well in the posteseason.”
Since arriving on campus in 1986, changes have come to all levels of inercollegiate play, including Division III, but for the most part Bush feels that the Division and the school have kept the true spirit of the collegiate student-athlete.
“I think Division III offers the true student-athlete philosophy, and though things have changed, I don't think we've lost that. Every now and then, something that's maybe a little too Division I may creep in, but overall, I think it's still as pure as it was meant to be.
“Here, one of the best changes is that coaching staffs have gotten larger and more specialized. We don't have people doing multiple things, they can concentrate on running their programs, recruiting and making the program better. All of those changes have been for the good.”
Bush leaves behind a program that is in excellent shape. Facilities are either new or recently renovated, and this past summer's Virginia Sports Information Directors Association all-sports survey cited the school for having the highest winning percentage among men's sports at the non-Division I level.
“It says that we have good people at all levels of the university that care about athletics. Last year we had no losing teams, and a 70 percent winning percentage. We have some of the best facilities in Division III in this part of the country, and that can only help what we're looking to achieve.”