By Max Goodwin
Shawn Summe has overseen Avila athletics through unprecedented successes and inconceivable tragedies in four years as athletic director.
He has guided Avila through the Covid pandemic, the death of two student athletes, and the death of baseball coach Daryl Cronk.
The Avila dance team has won four national titles at the Dance Team Union College Classic in the last two years. Avila football played in the NAIA National Tournament last season for the first time in school history after many years of losing records.
Avila had a winning season in many ways this past year. On July 5, Shawn Summe was recognized as the Athletic Director of the Year for the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, the conference which Avila belongs to. The award was voted on by the conference athletic directors.
“It’s an awesome honor,” Summe said. “It means I work with great people and have great opportunity every day to work with our student athletes. It’s a fun thing to do. Between our coaches, our administration, our student-athletes, our staff deserves this award more than I do.”
Summe has been a collegiate athletic director for 25 years now, and he says the last four have been the most challenging.
He was nine months into his job at Avila when Covid first hit. The Avila women’s basketball team had made their first NAIA National Basketball Tournament, and five minutes before tip-off it was announced that the game was canceled.
As the rhythm of college sports has crept back to normal, Avila Athletics have flourished. It’s an exciting time of the year for Summe. He sees a lot of promise in the upcoming freshman class of athletes.
Marc Benevidez resigned as football coach last season after leading the team to unprecedented success.
Avila hired Derek Alexander, a former Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver. Alexander was a wide receiver position coach at Wayne State University last season. He first started coaching as a part-time assistant at Avila.
“Everybody goes to the Chiefs part,” Summe said. “but the most impressive thing about Derrick was he got his start as a part-time assistant coach. And he grinded it out as someone with all that experience.”
Summe is looking forward to what Alexander can do as head coach at Avila.
Summe has had to step up in ways not typically required by athletic directors. Baseball coach Daryl Cronk died after a battle with Covid on December 26, 2021 at about 2 a.m. A moment Summe says he will never forget.
“He’s a guy who I think about daily,” Summe said. “Not only was he a baseball coach, but he was a good friend and someone who I really leaned on and we had numerous conversations about life, baseball, family, all that.”
Summe stepped in and helped coach the baseball team that season. The next season Matt Carpenter was hired as head coach after serving as a longtime assistant to Daryl Cronk.
Summe played baseball in college and was a college coach for 16 years, but says he loves his role as athletic director in that it allows him to see student athletes thrive in all sports. He grew up playing a little bit of everything in Northern Indiana.
“We shoveled driveways to play basketball in the spring. We played football in the fall, baseball in the spring. My brother was a wrestler,” Summe said. “I grew up around sports.”
Right now is one of the quieter times of year for an athletic department, if there is one. A few coaches are running camps during the summer, coming in and out of the offices occasionally. But Summe’s favorite time of the year is right around the corner.
As the calender flips to August and the heat is at its peak, the student-athletes start arriving on campus and preparing for a new season before classes start. Nobody is watching the hard work they put in to prepare. Summe gets to be around for all of that and learn a new group of Avila Eagles, and that’s his favorite part.
A new academic year and multiple sports seasons are set to begin and with it another grind for Summe to bring it all together.
It’s common to see Summe at the front gate of Avila sports events taking tickets. Then while the games take place he makes sure everything is operating smoothly. As it ends he clears the gym, helps find rides, and whatever else might need to be done.
“It’s pretty much everything as an athletic director. You’re on call 24/7,” Summe said. “Something happens and you’re going to get a call. There’s a lot of stuff that goes on.”
But it all ends up being worth it when he sees the student athletes succeed and eventually graduate from Avila.