Merrillville grad Brad Fentress has hit the ground running as South Dearborn High School's athletic director.
He was appointed June 6 to succeed longtime athletic director and coach Foster Harris, who was retiring. Now, Fentress is ready for the next step at the southeastern Indiana school, which is in Aurora and has fewer than 1,000 students.
"I am extremely excited," Fentress said. "This is something I had thought about for some time, and with Foster retiring, it was the right time."
Fentress was the school's boys and girls cross country coach and will miss that job, but he feels he can contribute even more to all the school's programs.
"It's tough to step aside, but this way, I can be involved in all of our programs and will have an opportunity to know more student-athletes," Fentress said. "I am lucky Foster showed me the ropes and taught me a lot about the position."
Fentress had a great career at Merrillville. He was sixth at 145 pounds at the 1990 state wrestling meet. He also ran cross country and played baseball for the Pirates.
Fentress said what he learned from Harris and his former prep coaches -- the late Tom Cameron (wrestling), Fenton Macke (baseball), and Steve Nolan and Greg Pierson (cross country) -- will be a big plus.
"Coach Cameron was so organized and I think that rubs off on you," Fentress said. "You have to be (organized) to be an athletic director. I was fortunate to have had great coaches."
One thing Fentress will face, like most athletic directors, is how to keep sports funded. He said he is not a fan of charging students to participate in sports.
"It is getting tougher, but there is one school district in Ohio where I heard they are charging like $300 per student per sport," he said. "I do not believe in that, though we have some fees, like a $30 transportation fee to help with the cost of fuel. And it does cost something to play sports.
"(But) I think when you charge that much, some kids can't afford to play and you are going to lose a lot of good athletes."
Fentress said there are many creative ways to raise funds.
"We are lucky that we have a great booster club, and they are always having (events) to raise money for our teams," Fentress said. "Our coaches do fundraisers for their sports."
He said he does catch flack for being a Cubs fan, since Aurora is on the Ohio River and near Cincinnati.
"I get it all the time, but I tell them I am from up north; I grew up as close to Chicago and Wrigley Field as you are to Cincinnati," Fentress said. "But I put up with it."
He also is working part time at the Great American Ballpark as a vendor.
"It's neat because you are working in a ballpark," Fentress said. "You don't get to see the game, but there are TV (monitors) all around. You get to meet a lot of people and it's a lot of fun."