Mission Prep picks Ecklund as athletic director

Former SLO High AD will guide Mission Prep as it moves into PAC 7 for all sports except football

ajankowski@thetribunenews.comApril 24, 2014 

Long synonymous with San Luis Obispo High athletics, Vic Ecklund’s next venture will keep him in a familiar town but with a new set of challenges.
Ecklund will be the new athletic director at Mission Prep starting in July, both he and principal JD Childs confirmed to The Tribune on Thursday.
The hiring comes two months after former Mission Prep AD Bailey Brown stepped down for personal reasons, and two years after Ecklund did the same following a storied career at San Luis Obispo.
He was the Tigers football coach from 1987-2001 and coached baseball until taking over as athletic director from 2006 to 2012.
Ecklund said he heard of the opening at Mission Prep when it became vacant in February, and after talking it over with his wife, he made the decision to pursue the post.
“I really like the direction (Mission Prep) wants to move as an athletic program and how aggressive they want to grow,” Ecklund said. “I want to be involved in that.”
The man who guided San Luis Obispo to a CIF-Southern Section Division IV football title in 2001 will captain the ship for the Royals as they transition from independents to league participants.
“I think that Vic is going to be able to understand what our unique challenges are,” Childs said. “Being a school of 400 students going against 1,800 is going to be a big challenge.”
The Royals will play in the Northern League for football alongside Morro Bay, Nipomo, Santa Maria and Templeton. They will join the PAC 7 — making it the PAC 8 — in all other sports.
“The competition level in the area is very intense and Mission Prep wants to be involved in that,” Ecklund said. “It’s going to be a challenge, but my thoughts are that’s going to be what attracts student-athletes.”
Childs said as many as 50 applicants sought the job before the list of candidates was whittled down to 10 phone interviews followed by four who were invited to the campus for in-person interviews.
“Certainly an ability to cultivate continuing competitiveness in all our sports,” was a key objective in the search, Childs said, as well as “an ability to really mentor coaches for that program growth.
“We want to really take a step forward competitively. We have been doing that in varying sports, but we want to do that across the board.”
Assistant athletic directors Chad Henry and Jake Hitchcock handled the day-to-day responsibilities following Brown’s departure as administrators began to look for someone who fit their qualifications.
Childs said Ecklund’s past success and vision for the future fit the mold perfectly.
“He’s a competitive guy with great local connections, but even more persuasive to us was the extent to which he’s a cultural fit,” Childs said. “He’s a smart Catholic guy … and he really wants to align with the way that we’re headed here.”
While athletic director at San Luis Obispo, Ecklund returned to the football sidelines in 2008 on an interim basis following the abrupt resignation of Craig Winninghoff. He continued to serve in various roles on David Kelley’s coaching staff and still has some duties at the school, which he said he will see through to the end of the school year.
One month later, it’s off to Mission Prep.
“It’s a unique opportunity to start new and start fresh,” Ecklund said. “It’s a positive environment from an academic, a religious and an athletic aspect. They are heading in the right direction and I want to see if we can make that thing grow.”

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