Rachel Burleson. Photo by Brent Martin.

By TOMMY REZAC and BRENT MARTIN

St. Joseph Post

Missouri Western State University has been seeking candidates to fill their vacant athletic director position since late July.

They’ve narrowed their list down to three candidates.

Each of the three candidates now go before the community this week to make their pitch for the job. The first candidate to speak Monday was Rachel Burleson, who’s currently the A.D. at Division II Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire.

She previously served at MIAA schools Missouri Southern as the associate A.D. for compliance and internal operations and at Northwest Missouri State as the assistant softball coach. Burleson says her Interest in the MWSU job is two-fold.

“Having been a competitor in the same league and having respect for the MIAA,” she said, “and just the amount of, just as an outsider looking in, what Missouri Western has to offer. And again, having competed against them and knowing their student-athletes and the student-athletes they bring have been tremendous.”

St. Joseph is also closer to home for Burleson after spending five years in New England. Though from Texas, she has relatives in Missouri.

Burleson says the A.D. job, to her, is more than just wins and losses. She wants to win, but also wants the university to focus on the retention of student athletes.

“Are we giving them the experience they deserve?” Burleson said. “Are we making them feel, for what they give us, which is a tremendous amount of time and effort and intelligent people, are we giving them what they deserve? So, I think it’s about the experience and the community aspect and teaching them so we know that when they graduate, they’re going to be successful in no matter what career that is.”

If hired, Burleson says her job as A.D. would be to hire the right coaches who will recruit the best athletes.

“So, my job is to make sure we have the right people in place to do that,” she said. “It’s also my job to make sure the community understands our worth and what we give. It’s not just about the institution. It’s not just about the athletic department, but what can we give to the university and what can we give to the St. Joseph area to make sure they understand our value and what we bring to the area.”

The other two candidates, Illinois State’s executive associate athletic director for external affairs Dwight Merilatt will speak Tuesday, while South Dakota School of Mines A.D. Joel Lueken will speak Thursday.

These forums take place at the Fulkerson Center from noon – 1 p.m.

Missouri Western’s athletic director job was left open by Josh Looney, who left at the end of August to become the A.D. at Division I University of North Alabama.

You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.