Dave Beyer doesn’t care if you know who he is, but he cares very much that you know about the accomplishments of the student-athletes at Mississippi University for Women.
Less than five years after The W unveiled its athletics logo to mark the return of intercollegiate sports to the campus, and less than two years before the move to NCAA Division III is complete, the university’s athletics department is at a pivotal but exciting stage, and Beyer’s is a critical if largely invisible job as director of athletic communications.
“It’s basically to make sure that news about our athletic department gets out using all avenues possible,” he said. “You’re the caretaker of the archives. All of the pictures we take, all of the stats that we do, it all has to be archived so the next person can find it easily. You’re caretaker of the past, facilitator of the present and a planner for the future.”
Beyer has been working in athletics for 36 years, taking a path that began at his alma mater, Biola University in California, where he was a wrestler, then took him to Rancho Santiago Community College in California, Cal State San Bernardino, Aurora University in Illinois, Loras College in Iowa, Rockford College in Illinois, Benedictine University near Chicago, Mercer University in Georgia, McMurray University in Texas and Oklahoma Panhandle State University before it led him to Columbus.
Those days of moving around might be over, as he said he hopes The W is his last job. In fact, Beyer is already talking about living in town after he retires “in five or seven years” and playing an “SID-emeritus” role, “where they call you back and say, ‘hey, can you come over and help with stats or help train somebody on something.’ That would be the ultimate honor and compliment.”
Beyer has been involved in his profession on the national level, serving on the academic All-American and publications committees for CoSIDA, the College Sports Information Directors of America. He especially enjoys the former, saying “that’s why we’re here.”
Why he’s “here” in Columbus is simple: It came down to fit.
“I don’t ‘shotgun’ apply,” Beyer said. “I look at everything. President (Nora) Miller’s vision really hit me. Once I met (athletic director) Jennifer (Claybrook) and her vision for athletics, I knew this was a good fit,” Beyer said. “When I came here, I fell in love with it. I love the city, I love the old college feel, the historic nature of the school … it just really grabbed me.”
The W sponsors eight sports for women and seven sports for men, with some sports playing on campus and some at other venues in Columbus. On a cool Saturday afternoon at Lowndes County Soccer Complex, Beyer watched intently, snapping photos and typing in notes, as coach Louis Alexander’s Owls men’s soccer team dropped a 1-0 decision to LaGrange College. After the game, he uploaded pictures he took from the scorer’s table to The W’s athletic website, prepared a press release about the game and probably pondered future possibilities such as weekly coaches’ shows from Zachary’s or special events at the planned baseball stadium.
It’s the kind of job that isn’t easy to sum up in a few words, such as when his mother asked him exactly what it entailed at a previous stop.
“I tried to explain it to her, and her eyes glazed over,” Beyer recalled. “So I just told her I go to basketball games for a living.”
That’s kind of like a professor saying she grades papers for a living. The closest he came to a short summary of his duties was “if it has Owls Athletics on it I probably had some type of hand in it.”
Whether it’s statistics, photography, publications or posters, Beyer is not worried about who (other than Miller and Claybrook, perhaps) notices all he is doing. He compares his job to a speechwriter for a president or a referee in football.
“If people don’t know you, you’ve done your job, and if they do know you, you’re probably not doing your job,” he said. “But you can have an impact on young people’s lives, do things to create memories for them.”
That’s what he was doing during events that made up his favorite memory from his long career. It wasn’t about a championship won by one of his school’s teams; it was about his behind-the-scenes role in making a major event special for others at a particularly challenging point in his life.
“My proudest moment as SID was hosting two NCAA championships,” Beyer said. “I had colon cancer, and I had chemo after the surgery. They got it all, but just to be sure. The treatments were every other week.
“Benedictine had the Division II lacrosse championships, even though they weren’t Division II and didn’t have lacrosse, then a week off and then the Division III track and field championships, which is the largest one because of the numbers,” he added. “I was able to juggle that between treatments. Nobody knew, and I didn’t want them to know, but we pulled it off.”