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Q&A with Corey Westra: GPAC commissioner earns NAIA national administrator

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In his 10th year as the Great Plains Athletic Conference Commissioner, Corey Westra was announced the 2013 recipient of the Charles Morris NAIA Administrator of the Year Award earlier this week. The award is named in honor of former NAIA Executive Director Charles Morris. Westra will be formally recognized at the 72nd annual Convention Awards luncheon Monday in Kansas City, Mo. The recipient of the award must exemplify loyalty and enthusiasm for the NAIA.

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The Daily Republic recently spoke with Westra to discuss his job, talk about the GPAC and Dakota Wesleyan University. Here are excerpts from the interview:

Q: How surprised were you to find out you were named the Charles Morris NAIA Administrator of the Year?

A: It was pretty surprising, I have been a part of the awards before. I have seen other commissioners that I know win the award and I have respect for all of them, so I was pretty honored and surprised to say the least.

Q: How big of an honor is this for you?

A: Anytime you are honored on a national level by an organization, such as the NAIA, it is pretty special. To be recognized by my colleagues at this level is pretty humbling. I have been the commissioner for 10 years and at this point in my career to earn something like this is pretty special.

Q: How did you become the GPAC commissioner?

A: I became GPAC commissioner in 2003 after I served a year as the conference's sports information director (SID). The GPAC was started in 2000 and Paul Clark was the commissioner then. Paul contacted me in 2002 and asked if I wanted to help him out by doing some sports information for him. Prior to that, I was the SID at Dordt full time from 1997 to 2001. My last year at Dordt was the first year of the GPAC, so I got to know Paul real well and he called me one day out of the blue and said, 'Are you interested in this stuff' and I said, 'Yeah, I am.'

He told me he would be moving away and that he would put in a good word for me. Then he asked me what do I think, and I was shocked, because I was pretty young at the time to be a conference administrator. I took the chance and the conference gave me a one year interim title in '03-04, and I have been full-time commissioner since '04-05. My story is a little unique, it's kind of about knowing some people and being in the right place at the right time.

Q: What does a commissioner do?

A: I think my job with the GPAC is to be somebody that can be kind of the lynch pin. On a day-to-day basis, I am dealing with issues that arise about game times, officials, scheduling times and promoting the league. My role is a little bit unique. Sometimes you see Division I commissioners, and you don't necessarily know who they are unless you are like a Jim Delaney of the Big Ten, but I am a little different because I am doing websites and scoreboards, so I am actually doing a little bit of everything which I actually enjoy.

Q: Did you play college athletics?

A: I never played college athletics, but a lot of people think I did, but I never did. So to be involved in sports at this point in my life is pretty special.

Q: How time consuming is it to be the GPAC commissioner?

A: It's a unique job, because it's not your standard go to work and come home type of job, especially during the school year. I am on call all the time and taking phone calls at weird hours, and I never fully walk away. I have said to other people that it can be a 50- to 60-hour a week job. I may not be doing something all of those hours, but I could be because something could come up before a game, like an official doesn't show up, or after a game, maybe a team has problems with travel.

Q: What's the worst thing about being the commissioner?

A: The worst thing about being the commissioner is when you get caught between a conflict. I think deep down, no one wants to be in the middle of a conflict. I think that is the hardest thing about being the commissioner, but you have to learn to accept the fact that you are not going to make everyone happy all the time.

Q: What's your favorite sport?

A: I grew up a basketball player, so in my heart I love basketball because that was my sport growing up. I have really grown to appreciate all the sports we have in our conference.

Q: What new and exciting things do you have planned for the GPAC?

A: This week we announced that we are going to a cheer and dance invite next year and I know nothing about cheer and dance but I am excited that we are going to do that. I think it is going to be great for our schools. It's not going to be one of our championship sports, it's not going to be on the level of our other sports yet but it's a starting point. It's pretty big to formally say yes we want to get our schools together and do something in cheer and dance. This is a huge step for our conference. It is very similar to what we did back in 2006 when we formalized wrestling.

Q: What's it like to work with DWU?

A: DWU is a great school to work with. I have developed great friendships with a lot of folks there. Working with Dakota Wesleyan University goes back to well before I was with the GPAC. It goes back into the old South Dakota-Iowa conference, when they had Doug Martin and Kevin Lein (coaching) basketball. I enjoy working with everybody in Mitchell and I enjoy visiting there and I still say there is nothing like a basketball game at the Corn Palace. It's a special environment.

Q: What are your thoughts on the DWU athletic program?

A: I think DWU is doing an outstanding job, they have their sports that people know them for and it's a hard location when you are in the north to have some of the sports they have.

Look at how it is outside right now. It can be challenging for baseball, softball and their other spring sports, but they do a good job with it. The sport that really stands out there right now is the golf program. Nobody would look at Mitchell, South Dakota, and say there's a nationally ranked women's golf program, but they have one, and I think that is a testament to Adam Anderson and what he has done. Overall, I think the athletic program is great. They do it the right way and they have integrated it into the institution. Their kids have a lot of passion for their school, sports teams and the community.

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