When Jeff Ward stepped down this summer after 14 years as director of athletics, it fell to Tim Ryan ’98 to assume the position of interim athletics director.
A talented baseball and football player who went to Wells High School in Maine, Ryan says he chose Bowdoin because it was “the best academic school that [he] could get into and continue to play one or both sports.”
He was a linebacker on the football team for four years at the College. In his senior year he was a defensive captain and a member of Residential Life. He also sat on one of the initial committees that shaped the current College House system.
Ryan says that in his junior and senior year, he thought about athletics as a possible career choice, but eventually decided it wasn’t the right time in his life. His father had served as a high school athletic director for 30 years while Ryan was growing up, and Ryan says he expected he would find his way back into the world of sports eventually.
After graduating from Bowdoin with a double major in government and economics, Ryan started working as an investment banker and financial consultant in New York City. But after a year and a half in the concrete jungle, Ryan began to realize he didn’t want to live in New York for the rest of his life.
In the first of many job changes Ryan moved to Boston, and began working for a bank that backed technology startups.
But after five years in Boston, Ryan again began itching for something new, and turned back to the world of college sports.
Head Coach David Caputi was not at Bowdoin when Ryan played, but knew of him through mutual associates in the New England football community.
In an almost poetic coincidence, Caputi was looking to hire a new assistant coach at the same time that Ryan was looking for a career shift. Toward the end of his stay in Boston, Ryan had been officiating high school football games in his spare time.
“It was in the summer, and kind of late in the hiring process when someone said ‘Oh, what are you looking for?’ and I said ‘What I’m really looking for is a Bowdoin alum who has been out in the working world for a few years and wants a career change—someone who could come in, be a smart guy, a quick study, and be passionate about Bowdoin football.’ And [Ryan] was the guy—it was like from my lips to God’s ears,” Caputi said.
Caputi said he was immediately impressed by Ryan’s ability to pick up new skills on the fly. He was also happy to acquire a coach with experience in the financial sector. In addition to his knowledge of the game, Ryan’s ability to organize, manage budgets and balance spreadsheets was a valuable asset to the team.
“It was a great learning experience in terms of the mechanics of coaching and what goes into it being a college coach, it was also a great experience in being able to work closely with student athletes,” Ryan said.
“That was a lot of the reason why I wanted to get into coaching—it wasn’t necessarily about becoming a Division I football coach somewhere—it was about being able to work with student athletes and have a much different experience than I was having professionally prior to coming to Bowdoin.”
Just three years after Ryan began coaching football, a new position was created in the athletics department almost tailor-fit to Ryan’s skillset. As the associate director of athletics for operations, Ryan oversaw both the future budget projections and day-to-day details of the College’s athletics program.
“That position was a great blend of being around athletics and student athletes and also being involved in a lot of the operational and financial aspects of the department,” Ryan said. “It was a marriage of two things I was really interested in.”
Ryan, in his new position, was heavily involved in the creation of the Buck Center, the oversight of the athletics department’s budget, and the operation of the equipment and training rooms.
As a brand new athletics administrator with relatively little experience in the field, Ryan found an invaluable mentor in Ward.
“I feel like at times I spent more time with Jeff than I did with my own wife,” Ryan joked.
When Ward announced his departure from Bowdoin last summer, Ryan agreed to become the interim athletics director at the College’s request.
Head coach of women’s field hockey Nicky Pearson has known Ryan since his days as a student.
“When it was announced [that Ryan would become the interim director] I think as a department we really appreciated him stepping into that position,” Pearson said.
“There’ve been no surprises,” Pearson said. “Everything that he did in his role as associate director, he’s just translated those skills over to being the interim athletic director. He’s still hard working, very helpful, and very organized.”
Caputi echoed that sentiment, saying that although the department was sad to see Ward go after so many years, everyone was reassured by the College’s choice of Ryan.
Ryan’s future in the department rests in the hands of the committee that will convene this fall to choose Ward’s permanent successor.
Ryan said that though he is willing to become the College’s permanent athletics director, he would also love to continue working in his previous position should the school choose another outside hire to replace him. The College has yet to announce when that search will begin or for how long Ryan will serve as the interim director.