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January 8, 2010

Herbster's career in athletics administration has a Midwest flavor

By: Jimmy Robertson

Those pursuing a career in athletics administration often view it as a glamorous profession, and for sure, it has its perks.

But there is a not-so-glamorous side, particularly for those who work at smaller institutions. At these spots, you’re not only pushing a pencil, but on occasion, pushing a broomstick, too.

As Dave Herbster quickly found out.

“At Concordia [University], I swept the basketball floor because it was over break and everyone was gone,” he laughed. “That wasn’t quite what I was expecting.”

As most know, Herbster played basketball at Tech in the late 1980s and early 90s. What most may not know, however, is that he has carved out a nice career as an athletics administrator and currently works as an associate athletics director at the University of South Dakota.

He got into the profession following his graduation from Tech in 1991 when he took a job at North Dakota State, where he worked in marketing and promotions and lived with an aunt and uncle – Herbster himself was born in Fargo, N.D., though he graduated from Chantilly High School in northern Virginia. He went from North Dakota State to Pittsburg State in Kansas as an assistant AD, and a series of moves have kept him in the Midwest ever since.

“My mom passed away and my father lives in San Antonio,” he said. “My stepfather has a place in Florida and in Minnesota, so I haven’t had anything to draw me back that way.”

Herbster met his wife, Kelly, while he worked at Pittsburg State. She is a native of St. Paul, Minn., and they ended up moving there when he got a job as the director of special events and promotions for Special Olympics Minnesota in Minneapolis. He served in that capacity for three years – his only three outside of college athletics.

“I had a blast,” Herbster said of his role with the Special Olympics. “When I played at Tech, they [the Special Olympics] held events at War Memorial and the players would volunteer, and in high school, there were a couple of people who had disabilities and I became good friends with them.

“So when the opportunity arose to work with Special Olympics as my job, I thought that would be a blast. It was really humbling and it changed me. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.”

But in 2001, he applied for the athletics director position at Concordia University in St. Paul, a Division II school, and he received an offer, which he accepted.

“I got the itch again,” he said, explaining why he jumped back into athletics.

Herbster worked at Concordia for three years, helping the athletics program transition from NAIA to Division II. In 2005, he took a job as the AD at Nebraska-Omaha, a Division II school in Omaha, Neb. With him at the helm, UNO won national championships in women’s soccer and wrestling and made it to the finals in hockey.

In 2008, he went to Vermillion, S.D., and is in his third year as an associate AD at South Dakota, a school with nearly 10,000 students. Once again, he is helping a school with a transition, as South Dakota is in the process of moving from Division II to Division I status – the school will be a full-fledged D-I member in 2012. Herbster oversees numerous sports and also heads up the department’s fundraising efforts and marketing.

Before heading into the professional ranks, Herbster was a solid four-year contributor for the Hokies from 1987-91. He signed to play for head coach Charlie Moir, but Moir ended up resigning before Herbster arrived because of a run-in with the NCAA, and Herbster played under head coach Frankie Allen.

The Hokies won 19 games his freshman year, but suffered losing seasons the next three years. Still, Tech played an exciting brand of basketball – one that lent itself to many fond memories.

“I would have to say beating Georgetown in Hampton [Va.] was probably my fondest,” Herbster said of the 87-82 victory his freshman season – a game in which Wally Lancaster poured in 30 points. “They were ninth in the country, and back then, they wouldn’t come to Blacksburg. I remember riding the bus back and getting to Blacksburg around 2 in the morning, and outside of Cassell, there must have been 1,500 people there. It was just unbelievable.”

That wasn’t the only memory, though. In 1989, the Hokies squeaked past Alabama 76-75 at Cassell, and they also swept Louisville and Memphis State during Herbster’s senior season.

“We beat Alabama and they were really talented,” he said. “That was just a thrill. And I don’t believe anyone else swept Louisville or Memphis State that year. That was just a fun time to play basketball.”

These days, Herbster enjoys watching South Dakota play – and he should. The Coyotes won 20 games a year ago and have been picked to win the Great West Conference this season.

He and wife Kelly have three daughters and have established a nice life in Vermillion, a small town in the southeast corner of the state.

“It’s a lot like Blacksburg,” Herbster said. “It’s a college town. If you want something a little bigger, you go to Sioux City [Iowa] or Sioux Falls, which is anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour away.

“We love it here. The pace of life is good. My wife is getting used to it – we’re working on her.”