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Simmons and ONU athletic program on the rise

The Ohio Northern athletic program has made large leaps to get where it is today. (Northern Review Photo/ Casey Mulcahy)

The Ohio Northern athletic program has made large leaps to get where it is today. (Northern Review Photo/ Casey Mulcahy)

At Ohio Northern University, many departments have a high level of excellence and prestige, but one that might be under-estimated is the ONU athletic program. Headed by 14th-year athletic director and Ada native, Tom Simmons, the program has a decorated history and is making significant progress.

Simmons, being the athletic director, has the power to make some executive decisions. Despite his authority, he is not just a one-man-band. His co-workers, coaches and staff help him make decisions as a whole to make the program the best it can be. “[My biggest accomplishment] I don’t think it’s anything that I have accomplished myself. It is more about what the institution can do as a whole,” said Simmons. Always looking out for the best in his student-athletes he continued on, “hopefully we have elevated all of our sports programs so that all of our student-athletes can have the most memorable experience they can.” Simmons has had two children play for ONU. Son Tyler played baseball, and daughter Lindsay played softball. He has worn both the athletic director and the parent hats before, seeing both sides of the coin.

Along with this position, Simmons wants to make ONU the best it can be in athletics so we can be in the front of the pack of the OAC. Recently, all OAC schools have included the rapidly growing sport of lacrosse into their list of varsity sports. Simmons told me that he wanted to keep competing at the same level of the other schools in the OAC. In the fall of 2015, the ONU men’s and women’s lacrosse teams will be making their collegiate debut. Simmons and his affiliates made the decision to add the sport to the list and did so with great planning. Some students around campus are very interested in joining this pioneering squad; one in particular is Ohio Northern junior, Bryan Petoskey. “[Being able to compete] in lacrosse is one of my biggest passions. It has been great to see the university, Tom Simmons and the potential players work together to make this a special thing for everyone,” said Petoskey. “It is so awesome to be a part of a historic creation at ONU and I am just ready to show what I have and be a part of the team.” he continued. This addition is just one of the many golden stars on Simmons’ resume. 

Before his time as athletic director here at ONU, Tom Simmons was a young gun in the world of sports marketing. With a degree from Ohio University, Simmons went from Athens, Ohio to Vero Beach, Florida. Simmons worked for the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league affiliate in class A for 10 years. Becoming the general manager of the minor league baseball team, Simmons was getting his feet wet, and fast. After that, he went and worked in Mobile, Alabama as the GM for the San Diego Padres and their AA affiliate for 2 years. In that time, the Padres won the National League championship, rewarding Simmons with an NL championship ring.

The message is that Mr. Simmons has a ton of real world experience, not only in sport management, but also in the world of marketing, promotions, business and just life after college. With all of that knowledge and experience, what is the best way to use it? Simmons says to share it with his kids and students. “The main purpose of our program, and it is vital that everyone understands this, is to educate our students,” said Simmons. Although athletics is becoming a large part of ONU, the core reason for students to come to Ohio Northern is for their education and to be bettered in their field of study. Even in athletics, student-athletes can be educated in their respective sports and sharpen their mindsets in athletics. Simmons can bring a rare knowledge that cannot be taught in a textbook. Students should soak up his advice and lessons and use it in the real world to help them broaden their horizons.

Simmons may be the guy pulling some of the big strings and his staff pulling the smaller ones, but some of the credit should go to the student-athletes. The staff and Simmons can do all they want to improve the programs, but nothing will grow or rise to the top unless the players go out on the court, field, or diamond and execute their jobs. It is the fire and determination of ONU’s stellar athletes that have gotten the athletic program where it is today. It will be the same fire and determination of the young and future athletes that takes it to new heights. “We want our athletes to win in everything they pursue, but we want it to be done the right way,” mentioned Simmons. He knows that there is a higher expectation of excellence at ONU and he wants to keep it that way. “We want to win because our student-athletes have worked as hard as they can in the classroom and on the field,” Simmons continued.

ONU has 23 different varsity sports and soon to be 24. The Athletic Department is on the rise and will continue our storied success as a university as long as we let it. Tom Simmons has served ONU and it's mission for 14 years and he has certainly not let his foot off of the gas pedal. Student-athletes can use Simmons as a guide or just to get some friendly advice, as his door is always open. The athletic program will progress at the rate that the athletes work, both in the classroom and on the field. So whether it is the engineering program, the superb pharmacy program or the musical theater program, the athletic program is ascending and looking to make a big paw print on division III nation.



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