New Tyler Junior College athletic director Kevin Vest said the second he got off the plane at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport he felt a warm welcome and it had nothing to do with the temperature.
“We are having a blast in Tyler,” Vest said at an introductory news conference on Thursday with his wife, Alicia, and 12-year-old daughter Macey in the Jimmy Butler Lobby of Wagstaff Gymnasium. “I appreciate everyone making us feel so welcome. The minute we landed at the airport, all the coaches and people in community have reached out. It has been unbelievable how you all have made us feel welcome.”
Vest, who comes from Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, Illinois, started his new job on Monday, taking over for interim athletic director Chuck Smith.
When considering leaving Illinois, Vest said the opportunity had to be special.
“The scale and profile of Tyler, it is certainly not lost on me — what our role in college athletics and junior college athletics is; it is not lost on me the profile that we have,” he said of TJC. “I’ve been here for a week and I can tell it is going to be the best experience in the country, because nobody can even compare for what we have as a campus, what our coaches bring to the table, the band brings to the table and what the (Apache) Belles bring to the table.
“When I thought about changing jobs there were two things — one, a place where my family could be a part of it, where they could walk into games and feel part of a family, an extension of our family; and two, be a part of what I believe is the premier junior college athletic department in the country. That’s due in large part to the great work of many of the coaches you see here today.”
Vest also praised Dr. Tim Drain, TJC associate vice provost for student affairs for his impact on not only TJC but also junior college athletics.
Vest said he is a first-generation college student.
“I got (to college) because of athletics,” he said. “Athletics changed my life. It’s how I met my wife Alicia. ... It was my entry way into higher education and I hope we continue to be that for several other student-athletes.”
Vest added about TJC, “I don’t think we look around and compare ourselves to a bunch of other people; we are going to continue to set a standard of excellence that is what we define excellence as and hopefully continue to challenge ourselves to continue to raise that standard of excellence and be better and better at everything we do. I am so humble to be here and I appreciate everybody for making me feel welcome and my family feel welcome.”
“The hay’s in the barn,” he said, reflecting his time in the Midwest and thanking Smith and associate athletic director Kelsie Weeks for doing the “heavy lifting as I show up the first week of the football season.”
Vest becomes the fifth AD in TJC’s 92-year history.
He served as athletic director at Waubonsee Community College since 2016 and was previously the sports coordinator and head baseball coach for six years at Rock Valley College in Rock Valley, Illinois.
During his time at Rock Valley, he also was as an associate scout for the Philadelphia Phillies and bench coach for the Rockford Riverhawks of the Frontier League. Vest started his career in coaching as soon as his playing career ended, serving as an assistant at Illinois College and Knox College before being named the head coach at MacMurray College. He also spent time as an assistant at Springfield College.
Drain was the previous full-time AD until Sept. 4, 2018, when he was named to his current position. Smith, who has been at TJC since 2006, served as interim athletic director. Drain had been TJC’s AD since 2002.
“First, I wish to offer my sincere thanks to Chuck Smith for serving as the interim athletic director during this year of transition,” Drain said. “He did a great job and I am truly grateful. It is a thankless job to be interim. The boat is still floating and we’re good to go. So thank you, Chuck.”
Vest earned his Bachelor of Arts in physical education from Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, and his Master of Arts in organizational management from Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa.
He is a member of the executive committee of the National Alliance of Two-Year Athletic Administrators, men’s regional director of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA Region IV), chairman of NJCAA Region IV baseball and member of the National Association of College Directors of Athletics.
“I would like to thank the Tyler Junior College Board of Trustees, (TJC President Dr. Juan E.) Mejia, Dr. Drain and members of the search committee for this extraordinary opportunity,” Vest said. “Throughout the search process, their level of professionalism and commitment to excellence in every aspect of the college experience has blown me away.”
TJC has won 61 NJCAA national championships since 1946.
Vest oversaw a program with 12 sports (baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, and volleyball).
TJC also sponsors 12 sports — baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, football, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, and volleyball.
Vest noted he is an avid college football fan.
Previous TJC ADs were Floyd Wagstaff, Dr. Billy Jack Doggett, John Peterson and Drain.