The first thing Mike Wisecup wants to do is put all the Colby College athletic department faculty at ease. Wisecup is Colby’s third athletic director in approximately six years. Before he officially took over the job Friday, Wisecup made the rounds through the department and let everyone know he’s not coming in with a blowtorch when a lighter will do the job.

“The consistent theme out there is, what are you going to change? Is what we’ve been doing the same as what we’re going to be doing? The department is running well. There’s good systems in place. I don’t intend to come in and make sweeping changes,” Wisecup said in an interview Thursday morning. “Certainly I wouldn’t want to do that prematurely and do harm. The thing that I’m hearing the most is an underlying concern about stability.”

A retired Navy SEAL and a combat veteran, Wisecup’s new job takes him across campus. He arrived at Colby last year, and most recently was the school’s vice president for strategic initiatives. When the athletic director position opened with Jake Olkkola’s departure to Johns Hopkins, Wisecup was happy to listen when Colby President David Greene offered him the job.

“This feels right for me. We use the same words here that I did on the SEAL teams. There’s honor, that means something on the playing field. Integrity. Teamwork. Leadership. These are fundamental elements that every person should develop as they go into any course of action in life,” Wisecup said. “This wasn’t on my radar. None of this was on my radar. I left the Navy a year ago and came to Maine with the intent of trying to figure things out. My plan was to get my Master’s degree and maybe come back and work in local government as a town manager somewhere. That’s where I really felt like I’d be happy. Something in a community where I could see the tangible effects of my work every day.

Wisecup’s path to leading Colby’s athletic department wasn’t the usual route. This is his first job in a college athletic department. But he knows leadership. If Wisecup can lead Navy SEALS when lives are at stake, he certainly can be counted on to lead a group of coaches and athletes.

“I’m a strong believer in leadership. I’ve seen time and time again, there’s no such thing as a bad team. It’s a bad leader. A good leader knows what he needs to do, what she needs to do, to make the adjustments, to establish the right culture, to prioritize resources, and I intended to do that to the best of my ability,” Wisecup said.

Wisecup was a collegiate swimmer, first at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana, and then at the Naval Academy. Athletics is a requirement of all students at Navy, be it varsity, club sports, or intramural sports. Like Navy, Colby is academically rigorous. From his own experience, Wisecup can relate to the student athletes he now oversees.

Mike Wisecup was named vice president and Harold Alfond director of athletics at Colby College. Contributed photo/Colby athletics

“I think the biggest thing is the discipline that being a student athlete requires. You have to be very precise in your practice schedule. You can’t waste any time. You only have so much time in the day,” Wisecup said. “My experience at Navy was very rigorous because of the military aspect of it, but it forced me to have to be disciplined, and that’s helped me significantly as I left college and joined the Navy, and even here in this job.”

Wisecup doesn’t take over with a mandate for change or a new direction. The big change is coming in the form of the construction site just up the street from the Harold Alfond Athletic Center. Colby’s new athletic center is on schedule to open in the fall of 2020. It will house a new ice hockey arena, a new basketball arena, and indoor track and field facility. It will be the home of Colby’s athletic department offices, weight room and fitness center, squash and racquetball courts. To Wisecup’s delight, it will be home to the only Olympic-sized swimming pool in the state. Wisecup joked that he hopes to swim the first laps in the pool, so he’ll briefly hold the pool’s records.

This project is essentially a half dozen projects rolled into one simultaneously, and Wisecup’s role is to make sure it’s full of gear and equipment when the doors are ready to open next year.

“Any time you get the newest or the best, it gives you a bump. It just feels better when you’re playing on better material in a better venue. I think we’ll get a bump from that. I think the students deserve that. This (the current Alfond Athletic Center) has been a fantastic facility for a long time, but it’s tired. When you walk in the doors, you kind of get that tired feel,” Wisecup said. “The new athletic center, it’s going to be bright. It’s going to be fresh. It’s going to be fast. And that’s going to reinspire folks, and when they walk through the door they’re going to get a jolt of energy. That’s what I think is most exciting about the place. There’s a lot more to being successful in athletics than a good venue, but it certainly helps.”

As is the current practice, the new facilities will be available for the community and local high schools to use. The shiny new toys do not mean the Mule teams have a mandate to win or else.

“It’s not about winning. It’s about being provided the best resources available in order to meet your potential. This is about trying to provide our students with the best resources they can have in order to meet that potential. We’ve got great coaches. We’ve got incredible faculty and staff to back them up,” Wisecup said.

As always, for Wisecup it’s about leadeship. Put everyone in position to succeed and get out of the way.

“The responsible thing to do right now is assess. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the department? That’s step one. I think anyone going into a new position would do that,” Wisecup said. “One of the principal aspects of the military is to build better citizens, and I see that as a central tenant to what we’re doing here.”

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