Michael Ryan has been around the Delaware high school sports scene for 31 years as a coach and administrator, and he says he wants to bring more opportunities for First State students at DelTech.
Ryan, who served as Delaware Military Academy’s Athletic Director and Head Football Coach for the past five years before being let go earlier this summer, has been hired as Delaware Tech’s new All-Campus Athletic Director.
The 48-year-old was named the Diamond State Athletic Conference’s Coach of the Year in 2017, and is a member of the McKean High School Hall of Fame, where played football, and later served as a guidance counselor for 17 years, while coaching football, golf, basketball, and track.
In an interview with WDEL, Ryan talked about how he became interested in the position, and how he believes the school can work to build its image among Delaware high school athletes looking to make a collegiate choice.
How did working in the public school system at McKean and the charter school system at Delaware Military Academy shape your philosophies as an athletic director?
“Every experience has helped shape that mold. Starting as a young coach, becoming a head coach, being a guidance counselor for 15 [sic] years is very beneficial in this role. My last 5 years at DMA, being able to experience all the different aspects of being a high school athletic director and the unique challenges of that role, were great experiences to be able to handle a lot of different things at one time, and various aspects of being an athletic director. Those experiences have given me an opportunity to learn things at the collegiate level.”
You mention your time as a guidance counselor, what do you take from that position that mixes well with the athletics part of your career to help you in this role?
“I think I’ve always taken a counseling approach to not only being an athletic director, but also a coach. That really goes to the student first and the student first. You have to look at them as a whole person, not just an athlete. Those experiences as a counselor helped me appreciate that more.”
Why has this been a career path you’ve wanted to pursue?
“I’ve always wanted to get into the collegiate level, whether it was coaching or administration, I didn’t know how the path would take me, but it was always something I had in the back of my head to give a try to. Being able to do it at a place like DelTech, where I’m a graduate and I’ve taught, being able to do it a place like here where it means a lot to me and I believe in, it was a great transition for me and I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”
What did you teach here?
“I started here because I needed a little extra money, but I’m a graduate of the criminal justice program, and I was teaching a course called ‘Essentials of Interviewing.’ I have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and my master’s degree is in counseling. The course was basically about counseling within the criminal justice field. It was a very logical course for me to teach, I really enjoyed it, I worked with some great instructors when I went to DelTech and maintained some of those relationships over the years, so when they needed someone they asked me to come in. Combining my C.J. background with my counseling background, it was a no-brainer for me.”
What does an athletic department under Mike Ryan look like?
“It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be focused on Delaware athletes. We are looking for kids who are doing well academically at the high school level, they want to continue playing the sport they love at the collegiate level, and they want to have fun doing it. This institution, DelTech, we need to make sure that all kids in this state know it’s not just a viable option, but it’s an exciting option. It’s an option where they’ll go here for two years, they’ll play collegiately a sport they love, and if all things work out the way they should, they can walk out of here with no collegiate debt. After that, who knows where that could take them. Sean, you know as well as I do, how many kids develop after high school. If a kid comes here, maybe they’re not a first-team All-State, maybe they’re not recruited by the University of Delaware, but they have a desire to continue to play and grow as an athlete and an academic student, this will be an excellent choice for those types of kids.”
You mention the 2-year model, why is that a model that can work for many student-athletes?
“It’s a chance for them to grow, and again it’s truly a chance for them to come out debt-free after two years. Connections with schools like Delaware, Wesley, DelState, and others, with us being able to provide a transition for those kids, and help possibly pay for that third year could be an option for those kids. We need to make sure as an athletic department and coaches we get that word out to the student-athletes in Delaware.”
You talk about focusing on Delaware athletes, in examining what’s been going on, is that an untapped market this school hasn’t been taking advantage of (Note: 90 of their 101 varsity athletes last year attended Delaware high schools)?
“It’s definitely going to be a focus of ours. That’s coming from the Office of the President down to the athletic programs and the coaches. We are looking for Delaware kids; we are committed to those kids. Not that kids from out-of-state can’t come here as well, but we want to make sure that Delaware kids know first that we are here for them, it is an incredible opportunity for them to play collegiately and get an excellent education. I believe I am proof-positive you can get a great education here and move on and do bigger and better things.”
Are you going to miss the high school atmosphere not being around McKean and DMA?
“I think I’m going to miss the camaraderie of the coaching staff, the camaraderie of football, and also the camaraderie of the athletes. Getting to know them, and building those relationships was a hallmark of my career. Am I going to miss it? Yeah, but this is just an opportunity to build relationships in a different way.”