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Courtesy: WMU

Uncharted Waters

Courtesy: Mat Kanan, director of athletic media relations
Release: 02/12/2014
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Imagine the opportunity to discuss the ins and outs of your profession with students, colleagues or community leaders.  Now imagine having that same discussion with dignitaries from a foreign nation.  Western Michigan University did just that this past November and again at the end of January when members of the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Sport called upon WMU to assist them in establishing a governing body for collegiate athletics.

This relationship began thanks to a lifelong friendship between Juan Tavares and Marcos Diaz.  The former is now the Director of International Admissions and Services at Western Michigan University, the latter is, in the words of Tavares, a national hero.

Diaz is a world record marathon swimmer.  He is an ambassador for the Dominican Republic and he is also the Vice Minister of Sport tasked with creating a governing body for collegiate athletics in the Dominican.
If you don’t know who Marcos Diaz is, a quick Google search will show that his athletic accomplishments are staggering.  Just to give readers an idea of his accomplishments, he is the only human to connect the continents by swimming them.  Diaz is the only man to ever swim both the Strait of Gibraltar AND the Strait of Magellan.  He once swam around Manhattan … twice.

Tavares’ and Diaz’s bond help make the connection to Western Michigan University.  The result was a trip made by WMU President Dr. John M. Dunn and WMU Athletic Director Kathy Beauregard over Thanksgiving to the Dominican.  The two presented to a group of college administrators on everything from how the NCAA is structured to governance rules to the structure of a typical college athletic department, using WMU as the blueprint.

The presentations were extremely well received and prompted Diaz and his contingent to schedule a visit to Kalamazoo.  That moves us to the end of January when three members from the Ministry of Sport came to campus in advance of a group of 12 collegiate administrators.  Their goal was to learn more about how a college athletic department is ran to better assist them in building their model for college athletics in the Dominican.

The group met with members of the WMU athletic staff, toured athletic facilities, and discussed areas such as academic services, facilities, finance, marketing, media relations, social media and more.  Each area was presented during a lunch held in the Seelye Athletic Center, but the real experience came at WMU athletic events.

The Dominican contingent went to Lawson Ice Arena to watch the 20th-ranked WMU hockey team in all its glory.  It was the first time any of them had witnessed a hockey game of any kind and the Broncos didn’t disappoint.  It was a raucous crowd and amazing atmosphere.  The next day the group took in a WMU men’s basketball game at University Arena.  They wanted to see everything that college athletics in the United States had to offer, and they did.

Western Michigan University will continue to be a resource for Diaz and the rest of the Ministry of Sport as they move forward in creating something that will shape college athletics in their country for generations to come.