Bev Lewis: Continues to Take On More Duties in UA Athletics

by Chris Bahn  on Monday, Mar. 29, 2010 12:00 am  

Bev Lewis has been part of the University of Arkansas athletic administration for more than two decades. She served as the women's department athletic director for 19 years before Jeff Long took over and unified athletic operations for men and women.

Lewis now serves as an associate vice chancellor and executive associate athletic director. She is hands-on in the day-to-day operation of the department, which has an operating budget of nearly $60 million annually.

Lewis oversees more parts of the athletic department than any administrator other than Long. She handles Title IX compliance issues and women's sports, plus she recently took on oversight of media relations and news media and is in charge of the department's strength and conditioning programs, athletic trainers and doctors.

Because of her experience and level of involvement, nobody - including Jeff Long - has more institutional knowledge of the athletic department. Before moving into administration, Lewis was the women's track and field and cross country coach.

Arkansas Business has deemed Lewis among the most influential women in Arkansas as the preceding list of her achievements and responsibilities indicates. recently caught up with Lewis to discuss her role in the department, the changing landscape of college athletics and why she has "The Best Seat in the House."

ArkansasSports360: A lot of folks probably know you were in coaching before administration, but might not know the story behind it. Your coaching career was beginning to take off when you stepped away. Why make that move?
I had been a college athlete. My dream had always been coaching. I knew I wanted to coach. I felt athletics had really impacted my life and I wanted to give that back to young people. I loved what I was doing in coaching; I'd just figured out what I was doing and had the teams competing on a national level. Chancellor [Dan] Ferritor was going through a bit of a transition in the athletic department and asked if I would consider both. I did and it was a tough year because I was pulled in so many different directions. I'd have a coach and a student-athlete waiting outside my office. Who gets priority? That's a tough choice. At the end of the year I knew there was no way I could keep doing both. I was given the choice, and I really felt like as an administrator I was coaching the coaches. I had the ability to have an impact not just on athletes in specific sports, but the whole department. I think I felt like I could make decisions that could impact a lot more student athletes than just the ones I was dealing with. I enjoyed what I was doing. I enjoyed setting goals, planning down the road, being involved in multiple aspects within the department and moving the department in a certain direction.

Well, you couldn't ask to be more involved than you are now, right? What is the key to giving proper attention to each of the many areas you're overseeing?
Obviously, it helps working with good people that you know can handle their areas very well. You have to get feedback from them and help them learn when to come ask for something or when to proceed without your direction. I think continual follow-through is key in anything you do in life. You can't let things slip through the cracks.

Arkansas is now two years removed from merging the men's and women's athletic departments. That was a challenge for everybody. Looking back, are you happy with the process?
If you look across the nation where departments were combined, I think it probably went better here than anywhere else. Most places, I think, it was very contentious. Jeff had some very tough decisions to make where you had two heads of everything and had to either choose one or bring someone in from the outside. I think he did a good job of blending it together. I think you are always going to have continual tweaking. Any time you have, as you say, a major operation, you are going to have turnover and you're going to have change. I don't feel it's all put together yet, but I do think it is moving in the right direction.

What was the biggest challenge of that process?
I think just having two heads of areas and trying to make those decisions was tough. And one of the toughest things for a lot of people was the physical moving. I was one of those fortunate people that didn't have to move, but if you look at all the people in the departments and all the rearranging we did ... that was a challenge. We were all so spread out and you were never going to combine until you moved people together. Overall, I think we're headed in the right direction.

How much have your job responsibilities changed since the merger?
I picked up some men's sports. And it's evolving. Last year I had men's track, men's golf. This year I have men's track and men's cross country in addition to nine of the women's sports. I had oversight of a lot of the women's sports and support areas previously. Now I've picked up responsibilities with media relations, training, the weight room and some of those areas.

Do you want more? You had so much to begin with, but it seems like you continue to add responsibilities.
I'm having fun with it. Whatever way Jeff feels like I can help, I'm happy to help in that area.



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