Harold M. Watson, who has experience in all three NCAA divisions, was named Goshen College’s athletic director in August. Watson intends on building relationships and winning championships.
Watson, 35, who most recently served as assistant athletic director for strategic marketing at Georgia Southern University, said that Goshen College is ideally suited for shaping a community.
“Small colleges allow you to build intimate, lasting relationships within both the college community and city — relationships that go on beyond the four years our students are here,” Watson said. “It really is a unique experience and I am excited about getting back to that.”
At the same time, he made clear that he wants Goshen College to compete with the best collegiate teams in the Crossroads League — and the NAIA.
“Five years down the road, there is no reason to not be competing for conference championships,” he said. “Not just in one or two sports, [but] in as many as we can compete in. I want to compete for regional and national championships.”
Watson, who was born in Evanston, Illinois, attended MacMurray College, where he received his bachelor’s degree in English. While at MacMurray, he served as president of the Black Student Union and was a two-year letterwinner as a fullback on the Highlander football team.
Watson said that he knew he wanted to become an athletic director at a very young age.
“I was one of those weird kids that can say I have known what I have wanted to do since I was 18 or 19 years old. I’ve always wanted to impact students’ and coaches’ lives,” said Watson.
Watson got his master’s degree in Sports Management at Western Illinois University. He went on to work as an intern at a Division I school, Northwestern, before moving his internship to the University of Hartford in Connecticut. In 2008, Watson transitioned to assistant manager of marketing, promotions and events. As a member of the marketing staff, Watson was able to bring in more than $1.25 million in sponsorships and over $350,000 in ticket revenue.
After leaving the University of Hartford, Watson wound up at a Division III school, Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. At Knox, Watson was the driving force behind fundraising and donor relations. Watson posted a 50 percent revenue increase from his first year there to his next.
In 2015, Watson found himself in another division: Division II. Watson oversaw donor and corporate relations at Armstrong State University. In that year, ASU generated their most successful fundraising year at the school. He went on to win a pair of Gold Awards from the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators. Over Watson’s tenure, he has received 12 other awards from the NACMA. In 2017, Armstrong State and Georgia Southern combined schools. Watson continued overseeing donor and corporate relations for one more year. He now finds himself happily in control here at Goshen College.
Before the athletic department can reach those goals, Watson will have to make small adjustments within the department.
“We have got to put our staff and coaches in winning positions,” said Watson. “One goal and one dream headed in the same direction.”
Watson has one goal that he wants to accomplish before he leaves Goshen College: rank in the top 25 of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. NACDA is a professional association for those in the field of intercollegiate athletics administration. The association ranks the athletic department based on post-season success. As of June 7, 2018, Goshen ranked 162nd out of 251 institutions.
“Harold quickly distinguished himself with his energy, passion and experience to lead the department forward, making it clear that he is the right choice for this role,” said Ken Newbold, GC provost and executive vice president in a previous interview.
“He has proven himself as a leader in multiple areas of athletic administration including marketing, fundraising, building connections outside of the department, oversight of teams, building rapport with coaches and student-athletes and managing challenging situations,” said Jewel Lehman, professor of kinesiology.
Watson, arrived from Savannah, Georgia, with his wife, Christine, and his son, Carter Abraham, on Sep. 6. Watson stays active each day by working out at 5 a.m. and if he has time again at noon. Watson stays connected with his family by watching TV, going to the park or having very competitive games of Connect Four.