Ullom Hits Ground Running as New WLU AD
Former basketball coach had been doing job for a year
WEST LIBERTY — The advantage, Lynn Ullom said, was undeniable. While others may have gotten just one or two chances to state their case for being named West Liberty’s new athletics director, Ullom enjoyed a year’s worth of on-the-job training as he had already held the job along with colleague Roger Waialae.
”Absolutely I am humbled, but if I did have an advantage, I had been interviewed all year,” Ullom said. ”I was probably last to submit my credentials. I wanted to make sure I worked through the process and make sure my feet were planted.
”I couldn’t have had a better colleague than Roger Waialae. He was actively involved and helped in so many ways. I am greatly appreciative.
”The thing that surprised me the most, was how much the AD’s job has changed the last five years. The challenges that we’re all facing in higher (education) with budget and fiscal challenges. Athletics plays a more important role than ever at D-II.
”By that I mean, I got to see firsthand and experience firsthand every day how intertwined we are with the mission of our school.”
Last year under Ullom’s partial direction, the university added men’s soccer and acrobatics and tumbling as varsity sports. In addition, Ullom helped get the wrestling and volleyball programs up to par with similarly sized schools.
”What I have really tried to do is look at where our sister institutions were,” Ullom said. ”I tried to make a concerted effort to get our school on even ground with its peers.
”There are some outliers like Notre Dame who won a wrestling title, but they are fully funded and that is not realistic for us.
”It’s about return investment and showing how we can justify our existence. I have been backed by an upper administration that was supportive and I have to make sure we follow through and make sure our vision becomes a reality.”
It was announced recently that the next project on the hilltop will be the construction of a soccer/track and field complex, that again, will help West Liberty be more competitive in terms of not only recruiting in the Mountain East Conference, but also regionally.
”That is something we’re going to put a lot of time into the next couple months as we hire architects and figure out the scope. It’s a really exciting thing. There’s community recreation, student body recreation. We can have camps. It is a win-win for our campus.”
Ullom said one of the more important things he has on his plate as he begins his tenure, is to make sure the initiatives set forth come to fruition.
”First of all, make sure the initiatives are solid and follow through,” he said. ”Men’s soccer, get through the club year. Acrobats and tumbling, let’s have a great year.
”You have to stay fiscally responsible. The worst thing you can do is launch something and have it fall through. That is my goal in the upcoming year.
”You have to be on the front end of things. You can’t be reactive.”
But taking on the full-time AD duties meant a tough decision. In order to maintain full focus in his new role, Ullom stepped down as women’s basketball coach at the school.
A 1985 West Liberty graduate and a member of the WLU Athletic Hall of Fame, Ullom has spent more than three decades on the university campus as a student, coach and administrator. Ullom has spent the past quarter-century building the WLU women’s basketball program into a perennial NCAA Division II Atlantic Region power.
Averaging more than 20 wins a season during the past 26 years, his 534-252 (.679) career record ranks among the nation’s top 15 NCAA Division II coaches in wins and winning percentage. His Hilltoppers posted 17 20-win seasons, won five regular-season conference titles, six conference tournament crowns, played in 14 conference tournament championship games, advanced to the conference tournament “Final Four” in 20 of the past 23 seasons and earned 14 NCAA Tournament bids.
A three-time conference coach of the year, Ullom was the first women’s sports coach to earn the prestigious West Virginia College Coach of the Year Award from the West Virginia Sportswriters Association. He was also named the 2011 WBCA Region 2 Coach of the Year and was a 2016 Victory Award Club recipient at the WBCA national convention.
”I don’t know if there’s ever a good time to step down,” Ullom said. ”I think you’re going to rationalize why you should stick it out, but if there was a time it should be now.
”Pretty much all these kids Coach (Kyle) Cooper actively recruited, so I think this was probably time.”
That doesn’t mean that once preseason rolls around Ullom won’t get that familiar itch. The difference this time, is he won’t scratch it.
”I am fortunate enough to inherit an athletic program that is pretty darned good,” Ullom said. ”Nobody in the last 15 or 20 years would have looked and said ‘they are in trouble.’
”We have taken pride in our athletic programs, and that goes far beyond wins and losses.
”I am really, really competitive. I want our teams to win and do well, but do it the right way.”