I am so excited to write to you this morning at the start of what is officially a new year. The first day of July marks the turning point from 2020-21 to 2021-22, brushing the slate clean from what was a difficult year for everyone, personally and professionally, to look forward to the opportunities before us.
And we have a wellspring of opportunities in front of us.
Because so much happened that rightly drew our attention many other places over the last year, and because so much change was wrought because of circumstances both in our control and well outside it, I want to reiterate what an exciting time it is to be a Gov and just how many amazing things we will be accomplishing in short order around Austin Peay State University (APSU) and the Clarksville community.
We have so many exciting new regimes getting underway fully this year. This fall will mark the first full season of Scotty Walden‘s brand of high-energy, high-octane football at Fortera Stadium.
Each week during the spring, his Govs got better in conditions that it’s tough to get better under, with a new staff and a new scheme and very little time to get used to both.
I was impressed at how much they improved over such a short amount of time and can’t wait to see what Coach Walden, his talented staff, and their equally talented players have spent the offseason working toward.
On the hardwood, we have new head coaches for both our men’s and women’s programs. Nate James, Brittany Young, and their respective coaching staffs have put together an incredible collection of high-character, high-caliber players on their inaugural rosters, ones that will give the Dunn Center the send-off it deserves before we move to the Montgomery County Multi-Purpose Events Center for 2022-23.
Speaking of, the MPEC—with its naming rights recently secured by F&M Bank—is poised to become one of the preeminent entertainment facilities not just in the midstate area but around the Southeast, and it will be located in the heart of Clarksville, right in our own backyard. A revival to the downtown corridor is coming, with Austin Peay serving as the backbone for an area poised for explosive growth in the months and years ahead.
The MPEC is going to be an outstanding addition to Clarksville and our expanding campus footprint. And we are not done building. Raymond C. Hand Park, Cathi Maynard Stadium, Fortera Stadium… all are scheduled to receive updates that will enhance the fan and student-athlete experience, including the completion of the Shawn Kelley K-Club at the Hand and updates to the fueling station and training room at Fortera. This year, we’re excited to announce the creation of a master facilities plan for our athletics department, which will define our priorities moving forward as we continue crafting the best possible experience for anyone entering our facilities—students, fans, and staff.
We have an opportunity to defend championships this year, with stands full of our loyal fans hungry for more titles. Beach volleyball and women’s tennis won league titles this season and our track and field program remains the defending Ohio Valley Conference Indoor Champions. Great coaches like Ross Brown, Valerie Brown, and Taylor Mott have crafted programs that are the envy not only of this league but a great many others. That we are able to retain great coaches who mold great young people is a testament to what we have built in Stacheville—a program deserving of respect, that attracts the right type of leaders and student-athletes committed to success on and off the court.
There are opportunities on the horizon that will shape how we do business as an athletics department, redefine the fan experience, and strengthen ties in Clarksville and the midstate area. We are changing what it means to be a Gov, and I’m proud of each and every person who has joined us on that journey. These partnerships—in ticketing, marketing and corporate sponsorship—will be unique in the collegiate landscape, one that will boost our profile and provide unique opportunities to our loyal fans.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the man who helps us make all this possible. Dr. Michael Licari has been a fierce advocate for this department, our student-athletes and the Total Gov Concept since the moment he set foot on this campus. He is an unparalleled leader who has kept us moving forward as a university in the face of pretty significant obstacles this year. He already possesses a deep passion for our university and its athletic teams and each day I look forward to serving this university alongside him.
When I took over as Director of Athletics at Austin Peay State University, I remember saying and thinking that we are sleeping giant, a place of unbelievable untapped potential that could make a massive difference in the lives not only of its student-athletes but in the campus and community at large. We have taken our first steps on that journey, steps that even a pandemic couldn’t halt. That is in our past; our future, the opportunities in front of us, has never been brighter.
Gerald J. Harrison
Austin Peay Director of Athletics