Aug. 30, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - After 42 years of service to the Indiana University Athletic Department, assistant athletic director Kit Klingelhoffer is retiring. He spent the majority of his career in the media relations department, but most recently oversaw IU's game management services. Here is a Q&A session with Klingelhoffer reflecting back on his Hoosier college and career experience.
What were some of your favorite moments at IU?
"What I have told people about this job is first off, I fell into something I love, whether it was media relations or event management. But you know, as you go through life, a job is a job. You have to find something that you like to do. But even if you find something you like to do, if you don't like the people you are working with, it's not a very good job. I've worked with great people. That's the first thing I think about is the great people I have had the opportunity to work with. That's the first thing, whether it's been student-athletes, coaches, administrators, people in the media, bowl reps, there have just been so many good people that I have had the chance to work with. That's what stands out to me because I've truly enjoyed working with the people I have worked with, I feel very honored to have done that.
"There have been a lot of great moments, probably too many to mention. One of the first things I had the opportunity to do when I was a student assistant before I even started working here full-time, in the late winter of 1969, we hosted the NCAA Swimming Championships here. That year was the second of six-consecutive NCAA titles (for Indiana) and it was Mark Spitz's freshman year here. That was the first big event outside of a regular season football or basketball game that I had a chance to work in sports information. What a thrill that was for me at that time as a junior. No one knew what Mark Spitz was going to do at that time, but look at what he ended up doing. Looking back, what a great thrill that was. That was my first really good moment.
"There have been so many more, national championships in basketball, and certainly the thrill of winning the first one in 1976 after being denied in 1975 with the best team in the country. If Scott May doesn't get hurt, we win in '75, I don't care what anybody says, we win in '75. But then to win it in '76, to see how that team had a goal and they achieved that goal. Other NCAA championships in other sports as well also standout. We won an NCAA championship in soccer here at home. I got see our swimming team win a national championship at Royer Pool and I got see our soccer team win a national championship at Armstrong Stadium, that's pretty special.
"Some great moments in football as well with winning some bowl games. Another highlight was having the opportunity to go with Anthony Thompson to the Heisman Trophy presentation. In 1989, his senior year, he won the Walter Camp Foundation award, he won a coaches choice award that was in Detroit and the Maxwell Club in Philadelphia, I got to go to all those places, then going with him to New York with Coach (Bill) Mallory and others for the Heisman ceremony. What a thrill to be in that room for that presentation although he didn't win it. I enjoyed seeing him mature as a player and as a person for four years and having the opportunity to go with him during that whole run, going to all those places, but especially the Heisman ceremony is right up there. I don't think I was ever more proud to represent Indiana University than I was with him at the Heisman ceremony, that was a special moment. There have been a lot of moments, I don't want to leave out anything because there have been so many."
What sparked your interest to work in college athletics?
"I grew up loving athletics. I didn't even know sports information existed. When I was a sophomore in college, they started an IU alumni club in Dearborn County, I'm from Aurora, Indiana, which is in Dearborn County. Tom Miller was the sports information director at the time and was also from Aurora and the alumni asked Tom to go down to the inaugural alumni association meeting to say a few words. My parents both graduated from IU, they went to that meeting. They were all in high school together and hadn't seen each other in 25 years. My parents went up and saw Tom after the meeting and mentioned I was at IU, that I loved athletics and did some writing in high school. Tom said he hired a student assistant every year, do you think he might be interested. Wow, I thought, to work in athletics at IU. That is how it started, I went out and talked to Tom, he offered me a job as a student assistant. I started my junior year, in September of 1968 is when I started working in sports information and loved it from the very beginning. It was a perfect fit for me and my interests."
When you graduated, did you know that you were going to stay at IU?
"It is an interesting story because John Beatty was an assistant director during my junior year. Now understand in those days in the sports information office, we only had the director, assistant director, a secretary and a student assistant. John then got the head job at Western Michigan. So when I was a senior, Tom brought in a guy from California as his assistant and it didn't work. The guy didn't like the Midwest, it wasn't a good fit and he ended up going back to California. By this time, I have a semester of school to go. I was in the business school, I'm in business management and I'm getting my resume ready to go through business placement. I was going to go off and make millions and whatever. Then Tom came up to me one day and asked if I was interested in being his assistant director. I thought he forgot I had a semester of school to go, but I about fell off my chair. He said we could work around it and he hired me. This is what I've told people, five things happened for me to get where I landed and stayed for 42 years. If they don't start that IU alumni club, if the alumni association doesn't ask Tom Miller to go and if my parents don't go to that first meeting, I would have never started as a student assistant. If John Beatty doesn't get the job at Western Michigan and was here two or three more years, if the guy from California worked out, there's no place for me. All five of those things happened. I've told people, and I truly believe this, it's not always what you know in life, it's who you know and sometimes more importantly it's being at the right place at the right time. Fortunately for me, I was at the right place at the right time a couple of different times in my life to be able to land here."
Looking back now, did you ever imagine in those first few years that 42 year later, you would be in the same place?
"Heavens no. I guess I always took it one day at a time. I will tell you this, I interviewed for two other jobs, one in '75 and one in '76. One at the University of Dayton as the SID and one for the SID job at SIU-Carbondale. I was semi-offered the Dayton job, that was the way it was going and I started backtracking a little bit. I was one of two finalists for the SID job in Carbondale and didn't get it. It's probably turned out as one of those good things. It would have been a tough choice. It would have been a great career move, but it would have taken me away from IU. I kind of decided after 1976 when I didn't get that, that as long as they wanted me here, I'd stay here. You never know when opportunities are going to come along. I had a couple other opportunities, but I didn't pursue them because I decided this was where I wanted to be, this was my school, I love Bloomington, I love IU, why go any place else."
What is the biggest change you have seen from when you started at Indiana to now at IU or in college athletics in general?
"The size in everything. When I first came to school here, we probably had 20,000-something students and there's over 42,000 now. You have to realize when I started in college athletics, just at IU we didn't have women's sports, we didn't have men's soccer, we probably had 75 people total in the athletic department. That would include everybody, anyone that had a full-time position, we probably only had 75 people. Now we have 24 sports and almost every season has expanded. There used to be 10 football games, now there are 12. We used to have 24 basketball games, now you have 30 or 31, you can go through by sport and see that. Also when I started, there was no weight training, no academics staff, no compliance staff. Just the expansion of sports, if you have more sports, you have to have more people. Now in the department, I think we have over 250 full-time people. If you want to talk about the biggest change, that in itself was the biggest change that has happened."
Who was the best Hoosier athlete on the court/field you ever saw live in person?
"That's a tough one. I don't know. I don't want to leave anybody out. Some people probably wouldn't agree with this, but if you start with basketball, the two most talented players I ever saw here was Isiah Thomas and George McGinnis. George was only here one year and Isiah was only here two, but George averaged 30 points a game and 15 rebounds in one year, he was a man among boys. He went straight to the Indiana Pacers after his freshman year and of course I think everybody knows about Isiah. There have been a lot of other great players, so when people have asked, those two stand out.
"In football, it's a little tougher because how do you compare positions? Antwaan Randle El, if you are talking quarterback, what he could do with the football was amazing. Then you look at what Anthony Thompson did and Vaughn Dunbar, they were as good as anyone in the country at running back. You talk about success in running backs, you go from Anthony Thompson to Vaughn Dunbar and Alex Smith, what a great nine or 10 year run we had there. There have been some good defensive players, Joe Norman may have had as fine of a defensive year that I may have ever seen an Indiana player have here.
"Then you look at swimming, I mean Mark Spitz was here. Jiminy Christmas! You talk about seven gold medals there, how do you compare anybody to Mark Spitz individually in those types of sports as opposed to a team sport.
"Here's another thing, you talk about a golden era of athletics here in the 1970s. You could make a case at one time, arguably, in the 1970s, that Indiana had the best basketball coach in Bob Knight, the best swimming coach in the country in Doc Counsilman, the best diving coach in Hobie Billingsly, the best soccer coach in Jerry Yeagley and in track and field, Sam Bell would have certainly been in the top five and then Lin Loring as women's sports were getting started was one of the icons in women's tennis, were on all on the same staff. That's unbelievable to think about that. Has any school ever had that before what we had here? I'd question it."
What was the best team you ever saw in your time here?
"In all honesty, it would have to be the 1975 basketball team, because the '75 team was better than the '76 team. I think Bob Knight would tell you that. If Scott May had not broken his arm, that team would not have lost in 1975. That team had seven players go to the NBA, we just buried people all year long. That was a heck of a basketball team. For a team, that was the best team I had ever seen here without question.
"Now having said that, I think about some of the swimming teams in the early 1970s that in all actuality, you might have been able to put together and all-star team from around the world and put them up against our swimmers and not won. I mean we had Mark Spitz and Gary Hall and people like that all on the same team and divers to go along with it. We might of won a dual meet against the world. But to pick out a certain year is tough, but those swimming teams were good."
Having worked with a number of coaches, who in your time has best represented Indiana University?
"We have had a lot of great coaches, but I can honestly say my relationship with Bill Mallory was special. Again, I have had a great relationship with a lot of coaches, so I don't mean to slight anybody else. But the relationship I had with him, because I worked football, was very special. He's a class person in every respect of the word. And what he accomplished here in football at a school without a lot of tradition, was amazing. The hardest day in my 42 years was the day that we fired Bill Mallory. I had to start off that press conference because I was the media relations director and I had to give the format of the conference. I was standing up looking out, there were tears everywhere and I was emotional. It was the hardest thing to keep my composure as I was giving the format of the press conference. That was really a hard day for me. I have tremendous respect for the man, he ends up being and is still a close personal friend. We do some fun things together, and I am appreciative of that. I was close to that whole staff, he had a lot of staff with him that spent 13 years with him. He was special."
What advice would you give to others in this profession or others who want to work in college athletics?
"Number one, you better like the hours. I don't care if it's media relations or helping run events and championships, you are going to work a lot of nights and a lot of weekends, so you better love it. That is the first thing I tell anybody, because it is. I wouldn't trade it for anything, but it does take it's toll, as nights and weekends add up because when are our events, 95 percent of our events are on nights or weekends. If you are in athletics, no matter what you do, you are going to be involved with a lot of nights and weekends.
"There are a lot of people that want to get into athletics. I have had more people come up to me over the years and half-jokingly and others not jokingly say you have the best job ever because you get paid to go to football and basketball games. Well I did get paid to go to football and basketball games, but everybody sees the glory part of working in athletics, they don't understand everything that goes on behind the scenes to help make an event work, to get out the PR, to get out the tickets, to take care of the athletes. It is a big business. Athletics is a big business, it has become a very big business. You have a bunch of people who work very hard to make an event run or take care of athletes every single day to look after their best interests. Without the athletes, we don't have anything. It's not the coaches, it's the athletes, they are the performers. Whether it's academics or compliance helping the athletes. Whether it's trainers helping the athletes, or equipment people handing out equipment to them, everybody has their role. It is a team effort. Football and basketball games are productions, they don't just happen. There is a lot of coordination that goes into it from a lot of different sides of it. But that's what it's all about, being a part of a team and I've had good teammates."
Looking back on your college life or just driving through town now, what is your favorite part of the Bloomington campus?
"I have seen this campus grow a lot, it has grown exponentially since I came here as a student. I love Kirkwood, I know that may be considered outside of campus, but I love Kirkwood. The middle of campus is gorgeous. To walk through the middle of campus in the spring or fall, or really anytime, we have some iconic old buildings. Going through the walking trails in the heart of campus and Kirkwood, if you talk about Bloomington and/or the university, would be my two favorite parts."
Now looking back, you have been in Bloomington and a part of IU since the mid 1960s, what does Indiana University mean to you personally?
"First off, I went to school here, so it's my school, and to have the chance to work here for 42 years at my institution, that really means a lot to me. It goes back to what I have said before, the association I have had with the people here for 42 years, living in a place that I love, there are many people who get away from Bloomington and say, I wish I was back in Bloomington. This town has treated me wonderfully and this university has treated me wonderfully, my life has been very good. I am very grateful, I'm very thankful, I have been very blessed and I've known that for a long time of how lucky I've been because I've liked where I have worked, I've liked who I have worked with and I like the town I work in."
So what are you going to do with those nights and weekends?
"Anything I (darn) well please."