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New AD sees chance to elevate Highlands’ sports

Andrew Ehling and his family – wife Jodi, and children Sawyer, left, and Brecklynn – enjoyed a recent visit to New Mexico Highlands University, where Ehling will take over as the new athletic director in March 2020. (Courtesy of the Ehling family)

Andrew Ehling can’t wait to get to work.

And the man certainly has some work ahead of him.

Ehling was recently named New Mexico Highlands University athletic director, taking over from Craig Snow, who had been in the position on an interim basis for two seasons while also coaching the men’s basketball team. Snow had just taken the AD’s job on a full-time basis for several months before leaving to join the New Mexico men’s basketball staff.

Ehling comes to Highlands from NAIA-level McPherson College in McPherson, Kansas. He was the baseball coach for almost four years before becoming the school’s first full-time athletic director in 2015.

Ehling, who has a master’s degree in athletic and sport business administration from Central Missouri, and a bachelor’s in social science from Kansas State, takes over an athletic department low on resources and reeling from a horrendous fall season.

“There is a challenge there,” he admitted. “But there is opportunity to grow and elevate athletics at Highlands. There is an opportunity to build some excitement around athletics.”

And that is what he signed on to do, Ehling said.

“I like that work,” he said. “I like to get to get boots on the ground, and work at it and grow relationships and bridge gaps. Having a vision and moving forward is what needs to happen, and moving as one. The department needs to work together as one. There is that opportunity and I felt I could come in and have an impact.”

Ehling was the right man to move the athletic program forward, Highlands president Sam Minner said.

“Andrew will be joining a program built on the foundation of many people’s passion, grit and dedication,” Minner said. “I hope the community is as excited as I am by his arrival.”

Ehling is scheduled to begin in Las Vegas on March 1, 2020, while he finishes up his tenure at McPherson.

“I’m in transition with McPherson and closing loops,” he said. “I would like to get there earlier, but I just want to make sure I do everything right and fulfill my duties at McPherson.”

Ehling was a collegiate baseball played at Butler (Kan.) Community College and Kansas State, then got into coaching at Division II Central Missouri, where he met his wife, who was also an athlete.

It was that experience that led Ehling to seek a move up in classification.

“I’m really attracted to the DII model and level,” he said. “I really enjoyed coaching at that level and my wife enjoyed competing at that level. Nothing against the NAIA, but we told ourselves that it would be great to get back to DII. Then this kind of came up. I was a little hesitant at first because I really enjoyed McPherson, but our thought was this would be a great opportunity.”

New Mexico Highlands’ new athletic director Andrew Ehling, right, talks with McPherson College football coach Jeremiah Fiscus during Ehling’s time with the NAIA school. (Courtesy of McPherson College/Jeremy Nelson)

During his time at McPherson, Ehling oversaw the launch of the Bulldog eSports program, raised more than $500,000 in athletic gifts, established the Bulldog Athletics Banquet, and saw the school’s athletics department grow to include more than 450 student athletes in 2019-20, the most in school history.

And in 2017, he was instrumental in the $1 million renovation of McPherson Stadium, including a new ticket office and entrance, as well as the construction of the baseball and softball fields.

The desire is to have a similar impact at Highlands, Ehling said.

“Fundraising is the name of the game of college athletics and it needs to be done and it has to be done, but it goes beyond that,” he said. “It’s really building relationships of those who support Highlands athletics and getting them excited about Highlands athletics. And they can be supportive just by attending games and being mentors to our student athletes.”

But bringing in money also is imperative.

“Of course, fundraising and financial resources are a big part of it,” Ehling said. “The result of fundraising is the byproduct of our supporters. I’m going to work hard at giving them as much access as possible by being in front of them and keeping them in the loop.”

Creating a positive environment for the student-athletes also will be a top priority, Ehling said.

“Our focus is on our student-athlete experience,” he said. “We want them to graduate.”

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