Greg Seitz

JSU athletics director Greg Seitz with JSU president Dr. John Beehler during a football media day event in August 2015. Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star

JACKSONVILLE — Twenty-three years makes quite an apprenticeship.

After 23 years of promoting Jacksonville State University athletics, gradually taking on more departmental administration than his most public role suggests and learning under wise owls, Greg Seitz can call it his now.

He has operated as though it’s his for 14 months, but no more interim tag. As of Friday, JSU calls him athletics director, and it feels good for a 46-year-old man who has devoted half his life to the school.

“It’s just so exciting just to have this new chapter open up for me, with this opportunity,” Seitz said. “I’m just very excited. It’s an opportunity I certainly don’t take for granted.

“I’ll work hard every day to ensure that we continue to be successful.”

Seitz just served his third stint as interim athletics director. A North Alabama graduate, he arrived at JSU in 1993 as assistant sports information director. He became sports information director in 1999, associate athletics director in 2002 and senior associate athletics director in 2011.

He’s handled scheduling and contract negotiations, including current talks for JSU head football coach John Grass’ new contract.

Seitz has played key roles in facility updates, including renovations to Pete Mathews Coliseum and the football field house lobby. He was involved in the design expansion of Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium and recent expansion of the softball stadium and dressing room.

He’s worked six years on the NCAA Men’s Final Four Media Coordinator team plus several NCAA and Alabama High School Athletic Association championship events.

He’s respected and connected. He’s studied under the likes of Oval Jaynes and Warren Koegel.

Seitz’s time has arrived as JSU’s athletics director. Here’s a look at how it came to be and what’s to come:

The process

Seitz spent the past 14 months as interim AD after Koegel retired. Then-retiring president Dr. Bill Meehan named Seitz interim AD and deferred to the next president to hire the permanent AD.

JSU announced current president Dr. John M. Beehler’s hiring May 8 of last year, and Seitz’s de facto tryout was on.

“I didn’t really look at it so much then,” Seitz said. “All I wanted to do was just to come in and do the best job that I could do on the interim basis.

“I felt like that, if everyone saw the things that I was able to do and accomplish, that hopefully, I’d be recognized for that.”

Seitz and Beehler worked together through JSU’s 2015 football season, the greatest in the school’s Division I era. The Gamecocks finished 13-2, including three playoff victories before huge home crowds, and reached the FCS title game for the first time.

The football team won the Ohio Valley Conference team academic award, and the athletics department as a whole set a school record with a cumulative 3.16 grade point average.

Seitz also saw crisis after JSU quarterback Eli Jenkins’ Jan. 20 arrest after a domestic violence call. Seitz’s internal probe found that Jenkins did not violate the school’s code of conduct.

JSU fans set school attendance records for football and helped the NCAA realize an attendance mark for the FCS playoffs.

“With Dr. Beehler, we have worked so well together just throughout those seven months that he’s been here,” Seitz said. “A lot of great things happened.”

Seitz got to show his administrative chops through all of that, working under pressure and deadlines.

The apex came in December of last year, when JSU played three home playoff games before crowds of more than 21,000. ESPN was on campus for the quarterfinal game against Charleston Southern.

Seitz emerged with the permanent AD’s job.

“I’m thrilled that they have enough confidence in me to lead the athletic department,” Seitz said.

Going forward

There’ll be no getting-to-know-you period for Seitz and the rest of the athletics department. They’re plenty familiar.

As for the vision going forward, JSU announced in 2007 plans to explore a possible move up from NCAA Division I’s lower subdivision to Football Bowl Subdivision. Beehler has since expressed doubts about JSU’s ability to afford a move up any time soon.

Trustees like board chairman Jim Bennett want the school to be ready if the chance to move into an FBS conference presents itself. For now, Seitz sees readiness as being “the best FCS program in the country.”

Seitz said he wants to give the board “enough good things that we would be attractive to a future conference,” he said, but that’s not what drives him now.

“What’s going to drive me, I want us to be the premier team in the Ohio Valley Conference, and I want us to continue to win championships,” Seitz said. “We’ve won 63 championships since joining the OVC (in 2003), and I want us to be the school that every other school in the league looks up to.”

As for the most immediate items on Seitz’s desk:

—Grass has had a new contract offer from Beehler for about two weeks, and both sides have said a resolution is near.

“We’re just waiting to hear back from Coach Grass,” Seitz said.

—Seitz also faces a decision regarding men’s basketball coach James Green, who is reaching the end of a one-year extension after his contract ran out at the end of last season. The Gamecocks limped through the late portion of the season with significant injuries but had showed improvement. They took Alabama to overtime and were on track to make the OVC tourney.

“Once the season is over, I’ll meet with Coach Green, just like I’ll meet with all of our coaches when their season is over, and talk with him and get a feel for what he wants to do,” Seitz said.

—Baseball is targeted for the next facility upgrade. Seitz called it his “top priority.”

“It’s probably past time to do something over at the baseball stadium,” he said.

Seitz said he’d like to see improvements in the clubhouse, hitting facility and bullpens.

“You know, paint the dugouts, and, from a fan’s standpoint, we need to make it comfortable and make it appealing for our fans to come and enjoy a baseball game,” Seitz said.

Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.