FORTVILLE — The era of the makeshift Mt. Vernon athletics department has come to an end.
The Marauders finally have a sole, full-time athletics director.
On Monday, the Mt. Vernon Community School Board approved current New Castle High School athletics director Brandon Ecker. It gives the Marauders their first leader in the role since Marc Caraway was let go in 2011 as the result of a budget cut.
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For four long years, the position had gone unfulfilled, a constant reminder of the statewide economic downturn that led to budget-crunching, the implementation of the current pay-to-play system and the termination of the athletics director position.
Since then Mt. Vernon High School assistant principals Derek Shelton and Greg Roach, along with athletics secretary Patty Calder, have formed a patchwork triumvirate, holding the athletics department together with long hours and sheer willpower.
But that time is over.
Starting in June, board president Tony May said Mt. Vernon community schools expects to be “back in the black,” and one of the district’s first priorities is to provide reinforcements for Shelton and Roach, who will resume their roles as assistant principals.
“We’re in a position now where we can relieve some of the strain that’s been put on those guys,” said May, who credited the school’s financial upturn to its growing class sizes. “For the past four or five years, they have been overworked and stretched thin.”
That’s where Ecker comes in. The Centerville High School graduate (2000) has been New Castle’s athletics director since 2012 and served as assistant athletics director at Shelbyville High School for four years before that.
Ecker said his familiarity with the size of Mt. Vernon, the school itself and the Hoosier Heritage Conference were aspects of his résumé Marauders officials were excited about.
Ecker comes from a Class 4A HHC program with roughly 1,100 students at New Castle to Mt. Vernon, a Class 4A HHC program with a similar population. He also spent three years as a social studies teacher at Richmond, which has about 1,400 students.
“Almost all of my experience is at 4A schools,” said Ecker, who signed a two-year contract that begins July 1, with an average annual salary of $78,000. “There’s a reason for that. I like the size school that allows kids to have a lot of opportunities to be recognized but also not to get lost in the shuffle. I think schools this size are perfect for that.”
Another point in his favor, Ecker said, was that he was a driving force behind New Castle’s transition to the HHC from the North Central Conference when that process began a couple of years ago.
“When (Mt. Vernon principal Bernie Campbell) was introducing me to the board on Monday, he told them my (leadership) in that situation is what stood out to him about me.”
For Ecker’s part, he said the job change is a big win for him and his family.
While he said he will be forever grateful for the opportunity he had with the Trojans, the commute to New Castle, for a resident of Indianapolis, was a killer.
Traveling to Fortville instead of Muncie every day will shave about 10,000 miles off his commute during the course of his contract, Ecker said.
“With the amount of hours you have to put into this job,” Ecker said, “the commute put a strain on me and my family. I really wanted to work closer to home, so I could spend more time with them instead of driving.”
A shorter commute is not the only part of the job Ecker is looking forward to, though.
For years, Ecker said he has admired Mt. Vernon from afar, citing the efforts of Roach, Shelton and Calder, the school’s premier coaches and facilities and the growing community around the school.
Marauders alum and longtime boys and girls tennis coach Gabe Muterspaugh said Ecker’s hiring also is a victory for Mt. Vernon.
“We’re all excited to have a leader who is driven and wants to be vested in the community,” said Muterspaugh, who has known Ecker since the new athletics director’s playing days in high school.
Muterspaugh expressed confidence in Ecker’s ability to take Mt. Vernon’s athletics program to the next level.
The corporation has the facilities and the coaches to take the next step, but what it has needed is a leader with vision — and it will find it in Ecker, he said.
“You can’t sit on your hands anymore and just hope money comes,” he said. “You have to be proactive, and I think Brandon (will be).”
Name: Brandon Ecker
Family: Wife, Brandy Ecker; children, Bryndan (10), Blaikley (1).
New position: Mt. Vernon High School Athletics Director
Contract length: 2 years
Yearly salary: $78,000
Education: Centerville High School (2000); Huntington University (2004), BA in History/Social Studies Education.; Western Kentucky University (2013), M.S. Athletic Administration.
Teaching experience: Union County High School social studies teacher (2004-05); Richmond High School social studies teacher (2005-08); Shelbyville High School social studies teacher (2008-12).
Athletics experience: Centerville High School athletics supervisor (2007-08); Shelbyville High School Assistant Athletics Director (2008-12); New Castle High School Athletics Director (2012-15).
Favorite teams: Notre Dame, Chicago Bears, Chicago Cubs.
When new Mt. Vernon Athletics Director Brandon Ecker applied for the position, he submitted a list of goals he would like to accomplish at Mt. Vernon if hired. Here are a few of his objectives:
- Increase student participation.
- Establish an eighth-grade parent night.
- Develop a student athletics council.
- Streamline communications from the athletics department, including creating a state-of-the-art website.
- Increase athletics department revenue through advertising and fundraising efforts.
- Increase community support of athletics programs.
- Create an academic award for team with highest average GPA.
- Have all teams complete at least one community service project each school year.
- Create an environment conducive to collaboration.