When Jeff Hester’s alarm clock goes off at 6 a.m. on Friday, he’s up and ready to begin what figures to be a very long day for the Columbus North athletics director. With the boys basketball team playing a home game that night and the girls basketball team hosting a regional the following day, Hester will be a busy man.
What follows is a running diary of Hester’s day from the time he leaves his Bloomington home and makes the drive up State Road 46 to Columbus:
Hester arrives at Columbus North, boots up his computer and opens the office safe, taking out the IHSAA-issued tickets for Saturday’s regional games. Once his computer is up and running, Hester logs in and starts checking his email.8:35 a.m.Hester is pecking away at other items on his regional checklist, including going over a list of broadcast outlets that the IHSAA has sent over for Saturday’s games.
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Since he’s used to hosting major events like these, Hester has learned how to account for just about every detail. He’s enlisted the help of his Student Athletic Board members to help with parking for the regional, and since temperatures will be below freezing, Hester has rented a pair of outdoor heaters so the kids won’t freeze.
“You always have to plan ahead for everything,” he explained. “If you were having a party at your house, there’s a lot of things you’ve got to have prepared. We’re having 6,000 people come here tomorrow.”
Drake Maddix, a former Columbus North student who now is studying at Indiana University’s police academy, is back helping for the day with cleanup and setup for the weekend’s events. Maddix worked for Hester for four years as a student assistant, so he knows the lay of the land and doesn’t need much micromanaging.“He’s pretty low maintenance as far as knowing what to do,” Hester said.
Before Maddix even has both feet out of the room, Hester is on the phone with girls basketball coach Pat McKee. When updating his facilities schedule for the week starting Feb. 15, Hester noticed that because of the Conference Indiana gymnastics meet Tuesday, there would not be any gym availability, forcing a change from McKee’s traditional routine of giving his team Mondays off during the state tournament. The Bull Dogs will instead plan to practice Monday and do yoga together Tuesday.
Chris Bradley, the school’s tech guy, comes in to make some fixes to the wireless network setup on Hester’s laptop. Once Bradley has that figured out, the two go out to the gym lobby to do some troubleshooting on Hester’s latest pet project — a 55-inch touchscreen computer that allows fans to access photos and information about Columbus North’s current teams and All-State athletes dating back to the 1940s.Bradley doesn’t need much time to get everything running properly.
“Chris is one of the best things that’s ever happened to this school,” Hester gushed. “He’s phenomenal.”
Hester calls Richmond High School athletics director Frank Carr to double-check the schedule for a possible Feb. 20 semistate trip.
Hester heads to the conference room in the main office for a brief meeting with assistant athletics director Wayne Roberts, assistant principal John Green, auditorium director John Johnson and two of the school’s custodians.The primary aim is to figure out how many people will be needed to staff the building Saturday and where they should be stationed.
Hester’s main concern about Saturday isn’t parking. Rather, with an elementary and middle school music event also going on at North, he’s worried about whether doors will be locked to keep the people attending either event from having unfettered access to the entire school.
Within about 20 minutes, everyone seems to be on the same page. Meeting adjourned.
Legendary high school coach Sam Alford, father of former Indiana University star and current UCLA coach Steve Alford, pops in for a visit. He and Hester chat about local basketball and other various items, including the Columbus North girls potentially playing in next year’s Hall of Fame Classic at New Castle.Chris May, director of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, comes through midway through the conversation. He’s at North for a guest speaking engagement with a sports marketing class.
Hester gets up to go put a load of towels in the washing machine, but athletic secretary Cindy McCoy has beaten him to the punch.
Braving the cold, Hester runs out to the football field to roll two sets of bleachers inside. Those bleachers, along with some other sets already inside, will be placed on the stage for the girls regional games — but Hester doesn’t expect to be able to put them up until after the end of the boys game on Friday night.
Senior softball player Tommi Stowers stops in. She’s trying to organize a softball camp and was looking for access to one of the gyms — but they’re already booked for the dates she wants. Typically, Hester has schedules for all of North’s athletics facilities filled in a couple of months ahead of time.
Having finally poured the cup of coffee he would have normally had upon arriving at school, Hester sits down with McCoy, Roberts and his other assistant AD, football coach Tim Bless, for a staff meeting. Among the items on the agenda: regional programs, ticket tables, temporary signage, locker room preparation, band seating — and lunch (today, it’s chili).In addition, Evansville Central’s girls basketball team will be practicing in Memorial Gymnasium after school, and plans are being made to keep any outsiders from causing disruptions.
Hester’s wife, Jennifer, comes down from her classroom to join the athletics staff for lunch. Despite working in the same building — Jennifer teaches health and is the senior project coordinator — the two don’t see each other too frequently during a normal school day.In fact, they usually don’t even get to make the morning commute to Columbus together.
“We have two cars here about 99 percent of the time, unfortunately,” Jeff said.
Back at his desk, Hester is taking advantage of a brief lull in the action to fill out a background check form so he can coach one of his kids’ summer basketball teams.
Hester starts putting up signs in Memorial Gymnasium, reserving a row for the media and designating different sections of the bleachers for each of the four schools competing in the regional. Roberts and Maddix will help finish that up for him over the course of the afternoon.
After doing a quick sweep of the locker room that Evansville Central will be using Friday, Hester grabs a pair of dust mops and makes a quick run over the gym floor, something he does nearly every day.He then goes upstairs to the upper concourse and dusts all of those hallways as well. That, he insists, he does not do every day.
“I don’t want to mislead anybody,” Hester quipped.
Paul Ferguson, North’s boys basketball coach, stops in during a free period to plot out schedules for spring open gym and summer camps.
Maddix, who has been trying to get the gym floor cleaned before Evansville Central arrives for practice, notifies Hester that there won’t be enough time to do a proper cleaning and get the court fully dried off. Hester decides it’s best to put the project off until after the boys game — one of a handful that will have to be completed after just about everyone but Hester and the custodians has left for the night.
Brennan, one of Hester’s sons, is done with school for the day and has arrived with Valentine’s Day loot in tow. Hester inspects the goodies, and Brennan will hang around at North for the rest of the night.
Evansville Central’s girls team arrives. Hester greets them at the door, shows them to their locker room and makes sure everything is set up for the Bears’ 90-minute practice session.
Hester has been fighting an ongoing war with his thermostat — the heat in his office, which was up above 85 degrees earlier in the morning after being in the 50s last week, has been fluctuating wildly. The athletics director insists that Larry Garris, one of the school’s custodians, is messing with him.“He is messing with you,” McCoy confirmed. “He told me.”
All in good fun.
Hester is on the phone with Warren Central coach Criss Beyers, trying to get him on board for a potential boys basketball holiday tournament at North next season. Beyers is in. Hester would like to get as many as eight teams; so far, including the Bull Dogs, he’s got four.
After putting in some more time on his facilities schedule and affixing a temporary Luke Skywalker tattoo to Brennan’s hand, Hester heads back over to the gym to put up some more signs.
A bus pulls up and drops the Bloomington South boys basketball team off in front of the athletic entrance. Shortly after their arrival, Hester calls an audible and has the bleachers for Saturday set up on the stage.Why put off until 10:00 what you can do now?
.m.On the way out to set up his laptop at courtside, Hester gets into a lighthearted exchange about the thermostat with Garris, who confirms that yes, he has been tinkering with the heat to mess with him.“Every day’s pretty much like a reality show in here, to be honest with you,” Hester noted moments later.
Once the junior varsity game starts, Hester takes off his athletics director hat — sort of — and goes into dad mode. His oldest son, Bailey, is a sophomore point guard for the Bull Dogs’ JV squad, and Hester wants to be able to enjoy the game.Against Bloomington South, North has a couple of late shots to tie but come up just short, 33-30.
An AD once more, Hester is back at courtside in time for the national anthem and the rest of the varsity pregame routine. From his laptop, he runs the video board, putting pictures of the starters up as they’re introduced.During the game, Hester sends out updates on his North athletics Twitter feed.
Following an unusually quick first half, Hester is up and out of his seat for one of the few breaks he’s had all day. Less than 10 seconds into the third quarter, he’s back in his seat and ready for whatever might come.9:26 p.m.Having wound down from a close game — a 45-39 Bloomington South victory — and with just about everything finally prepared for Saturday’s regional games, Hester shoos the last remaining reporter away for the night. He will do a quick sweep of the locker rooms, put up some more signs, get a few hours of sleep on the couch in his office …… and then get up early in the morning to do it all again.
Class 4A girls basketball semistate
Roncalli (24-4) vs. Columbus North (26-1)
Where: Richmond High School (380 Hub Etchison Parkway, Richmond)
When: Saturday, 3 p.m.