When Whitworth University President Beck Taylor asked Aaron Leetch to take over as his school’s director of athletics, Leetch was quick to respond .
“The decision, based my interaction with the people at Whitworth, was an easy one,” said Leetch, who accepted Taylor’s offer earlier this week after spending the previous five years as an associate A.D. for external affairs at Illinois State University in Normal, Ill.
Leetch, who has served as an NCAA Division I athletics administrator for nearly 10 years – first at Arkansas State and then at ISU, will officially take over as the head of Whitworth’s successful Division III athletics department on July 8.
He admits to having had some initial concerns about the Pirates and their fans, who have become a bit spoiled after having captured 49 Northwest Conference team championships and having participated in NCAA Division III postseason competition more than 100 times since 2000.
“That was something I thought about, but only until I got to campus and met the people there, and the coaches, in particular,” said Leetch, who takes over a department that operated under Scott McQuilkin from 1996 to 2009, when the Pirates’ former men’s basketball coach and current golf coach Warren Friedrichs took over. “I didn’t know if I would find complacency in that regard, or not, but I certainly didn’t.
“Instead, I found a group of people who want more than anything to get to that next level and are striving to do so. And for me that was huge. Again, I go back to the leadership of President Taylor and what he’s done over his short tenure at Whitworth to create that atmosphere of ambition.”
During his stay at Illinois State, Leetch built a reputation as effective fundraiser while directing the ISU staff in the areas of development, marketing, sponsorships and ticket operations. He also served on search committees that hired new coaches for the Redbirds’ baseball, football and men’s and women’s basketball programs.
“He has a tremendous track record of engaging corporate sponsors, donors and volunteer supporters that can give our already-successful coaches and student-athletes the resources they need to take Pirate athletics even further,” Taylor said of Leetch in a statement released by the university. “We expect Whitworth’s commitment to excellence to be reflected in the quality of the athletics program just as much as it is anywhere else on campus.”
Leetch, his wife, Lindsay, and their two daughters, Avery and Emmersen, are in the process of moving from Normal to Spokane, where the scenic surroundings also played a role in Leetch’s decision to head west.
“I can tell you that deciding to go from ISU to Whitworth, and from the cornfield of Normal to the beautiful scenery of Spokane, was pretty darn easy,” Leetch said.