New title has Kelley at home
Posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 12:00 pm
By KEVIN WEAKS
Dale Kelley has taken a long, winding road back home.
In a distinguished career that has seem him called mayor, state representative, commissioner, coordinator and even general for all of 17 days, Kelley is now being called something else — director.
Kelley, 72, was formally announced as the new athletic director at Bethel University on Thursday afternoon.
“Dale Kelley is a Bethel graduate who has done extremely well,” said school president Robert Prosser. “Perhaps he is best known for officiating nine consecutive NCAA playoffs and selected for three NCAA Final Four basketball tournaments but more impressive is his career in sports, business and politics. Dale Kelley knows how to lead and will be a worthy successor to the exemplary leadership given Bethel by Athletic Director Glenn Hayes.”
Hayes retired as AD last month after having represented the school for over 20 years in some capacity. He was the Wildcat baseball head coach for 14 years and, beginning in August 2006, served as director of athletics for the fastest-growing athletic department in the nation. Under Hayes’ watch, the school grew from 18 sports programs to 30, more than most NCAA Division I teams in the country.
“I’m so pleased to be able to come back to my alma mater,” Kelley said. “Bethel has meant so much to this region of the state, not just Carroll County but Weakley, Obion, Henry and throughout West Tennessee. It’s one of the fastest-growing universities in the country, and I hope to help it grow to be bigger and better than it is today.”
For his part, Kelley sees a future for the university, which had a Fall 2011 enrollment of 4,673, that is even brighter than its recent past.
“There are opportunities out there,” he said. “There could be more programs added, so we want to see what that adds to the university academically and what it means in terms of bringing more students to the university. All of those things are part of the puzzle of making things even better here.”
He certainly has built up his credibility in athletic circles.
Kelley’s experience in athletics includes serving as coordinator of officials for the Big 12 Conference, Conference USA, the Sun Belt Conference, the Southland Conference and the Ohio Valley Conference. An accomplished athlete during his collegiate days, he has been named to the Bethel University Sports Hall of Fame, the TSSAA Hall of Fame, the Carroll County Sports Hall of Fame and the Tennessee Hall of Fame and serves on the Board of Directors for Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.
“It is big business,” Kelley noted. “To be involved at the NCAA Division I level for 25 years and see how they operate, there are things they do that we can incorporate at the NAIA level and within the framework of Bethel and what it stands for.”
Modern athletics is not just fielding teams. The head of an athletic department also has to be savvy in both politics and business. Looking at Kelley’s credentials, both those items can be checked off as well.
Kelley has served three Tennessee governors — commissioner of Employment Security and as commissioner of Transportation under Lamar Alexander, member of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission under Don Sundquist and senior advisor and special assistant to Gov. Bill Haslam.
Kelley has also served three terms in the Tennessee House of Representatives, as well as nine years on the Huntingdon School Board. He currently serves as the mayor of Huntingdon, a role he has held for 20 years.
On the business front, Kelley is the owner of K and K Real Estate and Rental Properties.
“Dale Kelley has a vast experience base in working with coaches, managing operations and motivating people in the pursuit of excellence,” Prosser said. “This, along with his personal style of respecting people and his character suit him well to be the leader of Bethel’s athletic programs.”
Kelley also pointed that while conducting basketball clinics in Germany, he was given status of general for a 17-day period.
Kelley takes over a Bethel program that belongs to a conference in transition.
The TranSouth heads into the 2012-13 athletic year with four teams, Bethel joined by Blue Mountain, Freed Hardeman and Martin Methodist. Union and Trevecca Nazarene are headed to NCAA Division II, Cumberland is bound for the Mid-America Conference and Mid-Continent is leaving as well.
“That’s one of things we have to work on,” Kelley said. “I look forward to working with (TSAC commissioner) Dr. Charles Smith to strengthen the conference, and I have every reason to believe we can do that. I think make things better not only for Bethel but also for other institutions that are in the same category we’re in.”
The press release from Bethel announcing the hire listed Kelley’s leadership accomplishments.
He was instrumental in seeing the construction of Carroll County’s new 1,000-acre recreational lake. He led the vision and development of the Dixie Carter Performing Arts and Academic Enrichment Center. He was instrumental in attracting and securing the $240 million industrial expansion of Norandal USA Inc., to the town of Huntingdon, and he worked with state and local teams for the location of Behlen Manufacturing Co. in Huntingdon’s vacant industrial building in 1999. As commissioner of Transportation, he selected the site and appropriated funding for the Carroll County Airport.
He is the 1985 Bethel College Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award Winner, and he was the first recipient of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce’s Carroll Countian of the Year. Kelley is a Carroll County Silver Medallion Award Winner, and a recipient of Huntingdon’s Pinnacle of Excellence Award for outstanding leadership and accomplishments in government, athletics and community. Under his leadership, the town of Huntingdon has received the Excellence in Downtown Revitalization Award, and the 2007 Governor’s Award in the Arts.
Kelley is married to Carlene Tullos Kelley, and they have three children and eight grandchildren. Published in The WCP 7.10.12