COEUR d’ALENE — Personally and professionally, friends and fans of North Idaho College Athletic Director Al Williams reached out to the popular figure Tuesday after learning of his retirement announcement.
On Tuesday, The Press published a story about how Williams, 60, is retiring after more than 16 years at the college. His last day will be Sept. 27. Williams was unavailable for comment Monday but he followed up with this statement:
“It was the happiest day of my work career when I received the call from Dr. Michael Burke 16 years ago informing me that I had been selected as the new athletic director at NIC. I’ve been blessed to have worked with many supportive NIC Presidents in the past. I’m proud that we have been able to achieve so many significant accomplishments for our athletic programs, both academically and in the sports arena. I recall a period in 2011-12 when we were ranked #1 in the National Junior College Athletic Association national polls in 4 sports in the same season: men and women’s basketball, volleyball, and wrestling. A historical feat unparalleled at the NJCAA level! I’m also proud that academically, in 15 of the last 16 seasons, the GPA of NIC student-athletes has exceeded the GPA of the overall student body. At least two annually during this period have earned a team GPA exceeding 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
“The Coeur d’Alene community has been so supportive of our school and our athletic programs that we were honored to represent NIC on a regional and national basis. I strongly influenced the decision to switch to the NWAC six years ago for financial reasons to avoid cutting sports and eliminating opportunities for student-athletes. Regardless of the reasons, we are now forced to compete in a conference that neither appreciates, desires, nor respects NIC. No students should be forced to compete in this type of environment. There are times when you make a tough decision where you need to walk away from difficult conditions. I hope the NIC administration and Board of Trustees also consider this option in the near future in the best interest of NIC athletics and our student-athletes. Thank you to my many friends and supporters of North Idaho College during my tenure. NIC will always have a special place in my heart. I’m looking forward to retirement from NIC and the next phase of my career.”
Local Realtor John Beutler was among many who extended warm wishes to Williams on Tuesday.
“Al’s retirement is a big blow to NIC,” said Beutler, owner-broker of Century 21 Beutler & Associates and an NIC athletics booster. “I think Al Williams is the best ambassador NIC has. For 16 years, he’s been a great friend not just to me, but to the entire community.”
Longtime banker and community servant Ron Ouren was NIC Booster Club president in 2003, when Williams was hired. He said he’d served two years and, with the strong efforts of others helping, “totally rebuilt the booster club from a failing entity to the beginning of a sound support system for the college and especially the student athletes.”
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to serve a third year as president but decided to meet with Al, who was just hired as the new athletic director for North Idaho College, before making my decision,” Ouren said. “When Al and I and Steve Widmyer sat down to visit, Al spent the first 30 minutes talking about academics and what he wanted to accomplish with the student athletes and the college professors.
“His goal was to institute a program that required a dedication and commitment to education by not only the student athletes, but also all the coaches. He also because of some issues with faculty wanted to visit with them about student athletes’ responsibilities, but also a fairness to them because of their athletic commitments, which took them away from campus quite a few times.
“From our conversation it was very apparent to me that this was the person who truly could take our athletic program to a new direction along with stronger support for our individual student athletes.”
Ouren signed on for another year and the relationship blossomed. He said he and the board asked Al to increase the grade level of all athletes, have them give back to the community through nonprofit volunteering, and for each NIC team to represent NIC “on a very competitive level and that they would always represent the school in an honorable way.”
“Over the 16-plus years Al has provided this leadership to the college, he, coaches and student athletes have far exceeded these goals,” Ouren said. “This happened only because of the high values, his moral character and his commitment to the student athletes, his coaches, North Idaho College and our community.”
According to NIC, the Board of Trustees agenda for 6 p.m. on Sept. 25 in the Student Union Building will include a discussion on the college’s relationship with the NWAC. Public comment will be welcomed.