After holding the position for 16 years and accumulating numerous awards and successes, athletic director Carl Heinrich decided it was time for a new arena. From leading the college to 11 national championships to academic, athletic and administrative success, Heinrich has left a sizeable impact.
Heinrich has served as athletic director since August 2000, overseeing a department of 15 varsity teams. He will retire in June from the position and become the assistant commissioner of the Jayhawk Conference.
From being a high school standout to baseball star at KU to a minor league baseball player, Heinrich has always been around sports and managed to turn his passion into a career.
“And here we are talking after years,” Heinrich said. “I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve gotten a few awards and the coaches have done an incredible job of running our programs here.”
During Heinrich’s tenure, he was named Athletic Director of the Year and received the George E. Killian Award that he described as his “highest award.”
“It’s not about me, it’s about being a part of national championships and seeing student athletes come in and grow and achieve the epitome of what they are trying to do,” Heinrich said. “The greatest reward is the opportunity to meet the students and learn what they want to do. You try to make your parents proud and they put a lot of heart and soul into raising you.”
Kent Shelley, head baseball coach, grew up watching Heinrich play sports throughout high school and college. The two have been friends for years with Heinrich being a pitching coach under Shelley.
“I think the first thing that’s important to know about Carl is that he’s a lot older than I am,” Shelley said. “He was gone from KU when I got there, but I watched him coach and when I got the job here I had the opportunity to bring Carl down from coaching at Highland Community College and he spent six years on my coaching staff as my pitching coach. It was six of my best years.”
After Shelley and Heinrich coached together, Heinrich had the opportunity to go a different route into administration and has worked his way up from student athlete to coach to athletic director.
“I think his legacy is that he has truly tried to make a difference in coaches lives, he’s tried to make a difference in the student athletes lives, he’s really cared about the people associated with the athletic department, the people on campus and out in the community,” Shelley said. “I think just touching people’s lives in a positive fashion will be his legacy.”
“Someone like Carl is very difficult to replace,” President Joseph Sopcich said. “Everyone kind of looks to Carl for insight and direction because he has a lot of credibility. Everyone trusts him and he’s a very easy guy to work with.”
Sopcich confirmed that a replacement has not yet been found and Randy Weber in student services will be heading that search.
During Heinrich’s tenure, the college has seen nine national championships and the highest academic success for student athletes in program history. Of the 298 National Junior College Athletic Association Academic Award winners, 213 have been under Heinrich’s watch.
“I think that is one of the things Carl has done. He’s created a culture of academic success,” Ben Conrad, head coach of women’s basketball, said.
Conrad has seen great success and most recently led the women’s basketball team to win the 2015 NJCAA National Championship.
“As far as helping our program, he helps all of the programs,” Conrad said. “He doesn’t play favorites. He’s very much into making sure that all of the programs have what they need.”
Tyler Cundith, sports information director, spoke about Heinrich’s leadership and attitude.
“He has a winning attitude and I think that carries over to all the coaches,” Cundith said. “You want to be your best, put out your best, do your best, and if you do that you have the chance to be the best.”
Next up for Heinrich is becoming the assistant commissioner of the Jayhawk Conference for one year and if all goes well, becoming the head commissioner. He is also looking forward to spending more time his wife of 38 years, three sons and seven grandchildren.