It was more than positive energy in the room for new Michigan State Athletic Director Alan Haller’s introductory press conference. Current and former coaches, student athletes, trustees and administrators either found seats or mulled at the sides, a who’s-who of MSU luminaries gathered in recognition of Haller’s next step as the 20th athletic director in university history.
Stanley led the event off by noting the Haller era has begun with a “bang,” with Spartan athletics posting a collective 14-2-2 record since Haller’s appointment. He thanked the MSU Board of Trustees, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren and the Athletic Director Search Advisory Committee for their assistance in choosing Haller.
“I felt it was important that we conduct a national search for our next athletic director, to look at all options and find the best fit for our current needs and future opportunities,” Stanley said. “I’m pleased our selection was already a Spartan, already a part of our community. The values Alan Haller bring—integrity, compassion, empathy and a steadfast commitment to public service—makes him a natural leader.”
Among those on the Athletic Director Search Advisory Committee were MSU Board of Trustee members Kelly Tebay and Renee Knake Jefferson, former Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio and former MSU athletes Steve Smith and Gene Washington as well as a few others.
After noting his background as an athlete for MSU football and track and field in the late 1980s and his 13 years of service to the MSU Police Department, Stanley said college athletics is currently a “challenging space” but expressed confidence in Haller’s ability to navigate it. He then thanked previous AD Bill Beekman for his three years of service to the athletic department before handing the podium over to Trustee Dianne Byrum.
Byrum spoke briefly, recognizing her fellow members of the Board of Trustees for their assistance in the process of choosing a new athletic director and their vote of confidence in Haller as the final selection.
“I believe I speak for us all on the Board of Trustees when I say we are so excited to see what is in store for MSU athletics under (Haller’s) leadership,” Byrum said. “Alan understands and can relate to student athletes and the student-athletic experience. It is that transformational experience that will help him succeed in this new role.”
Perhaps the most compelling speaker of the day, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren followed Byrum and spoke about the “importance of dreams” in relation to Haller’s journey up to this point.
“Alan grew up here in Lansing,” Warren said. “He was probably told from the time that he was a young man that he’d never be able to get a scholarship and play at Michigan State. What’d he do? He kept dreaming, he kept praying but most of all, he kept working.”
Football Head Coach Mel Tucker spoke next, starting off with an apology for his abnormally raspy voice after practice that morning. After praising Haller for his leadership, Tucker explained the importance of this hire in the context of his program and MSU athletics as a whole.
“Alan understands what it takes to be successful at the highest level,” Tucker said. “That’s exactly what we need to build a championship culture. We need the right people in the right seats at the right time.”
Tucker said he enjoyed giving Haller a #20 MSU football jersey on Friday’s game 38-21 win over Northwestern and watching his players receive their new athletic director for the first time.
“I know they were excited for Alan as well … they start (chanting) ‘AD, AD, AD,’” Tucker said.
Michigan State men’s basketball Head Coach Tom Izzo began his portion of the conference with a couple jokes, but settled in to deliver some earlier memories of Haller and an appreciation of his resilience throughout his time at MSU.
“He played football; I worked for Jud Heathcote. We both had our problems,” Izzo said with a smile. “We’ve all been through it … that’s a word we don’t use enough—there is a process and you have shown that you’ve stood steadfast in the process.”
Izzo said he believes Haller will be an “incredible” athletic director and cited his deep roots in East Lansing and status as an alumnus as further opportunities for the betterment of the athletic department.
“I think getting people back is the key,” Izzo said. “And now … one of our own bringing them back is going to be a big key.”
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Fifth-year sprinter Brooke Bogan was the only student athlete to speak at Haller’s introduction. She said she hoped Haller would be brought into the conversation for the vacant AD position due to his experience as a student athlete and leadership as a Deputy AD.
“A couple summers ago, when things got a little bit rocky with things surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion, he was somebody who was there to offer support,” Bogan said. “That also spoke a lot of volumes to me because it shows that (Haller) cared about us not only on the track, on the field, on the court but also off.”
Finally, with adulation at its peak, Haller took the stage to a standing ovation and raucous applause. He said he was told the event was planned to be a “little, small gathering” but put into words the response he actually got.
“This is incredible,” Haller said in his introduction.
Haller thanked Stanley, Byrum, the Board of Trustees, former little league, high school and college coaches including George Perles, his family, former co-workers at MSU Police Department, student athletes, MSU coaches and the community surrounding Michigan State.
He spoke candidly about his parents and how he’s keeping them close with him in this new chapter of his career.
“I used to get really, really nervous before events for (football and track and field),” Haller said in the most emotional moment of the event. “I’d come out to the stadium at five o’ clock and (Haller’s mother) would be looking at me and that would calm me down. So why do I know mom is here today? I feel your presence, I’m calm and ready to go.”
Haller mentioned the deaths of former AD Jim Pignataro and MSU rowing captain Olivia Long, adding that MSU will honor their legacies under his watch. From there, he spoke passionately about everything from the importance of MSU’s fanbase, his plans to visit home football tailgates in the coming weeks, the “culture of excellence” he looks to instill and the relationship he’d like to have with student athletes.
“I am not the athletic director,” Haller said to student athletes in the room. “I work for you...You will have direct access to me at all times.”
In closing, Haller said he’s looking forward to the responsibility of being MSU’s 20th AD, but it’s a responsibility he can’t take on without the support of Spartans everywhere.
“I can’t do it alone,” Haller said. “I need all the student athletes, all the staff, all the coaches, university leaders, the community, donors, letterwinners."
“Everyone, we have do this together.”
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