Can Macalester excel in sports as well as academics?

That’s the new AD’s vision

Donald “Donnie” Brooks // Photo by Charles Hallman

Macalester College has a world-renowned academic reputation. Donald “Donnie” Brooks, the recently hired athletic director, says among his goals is for the St. Paul school to be equally known for its athletics.

Since arriving early last month, Brooks has been out and about, weather permitting, as a drum major (figuratively speaking) banging the drum slowly for Scots athletics. We first met after a Scots women’s basketball game shortly after he got here. He quizzed me about local churches and where to find Black people.

“I still have a lot of places to see,” he later stressed during a scheduled interview in his Leonard Center office a day after the polar vortex left town. “Ultimately, the job is to provide direction and motivation to the coaches who run our programs. I think Macalester is a great athletic school that [student-athletes of color] should be looking at.”

Brooks comes to Macalester after nearly three years at Millsap (Miss.) College. The Houston, Texas native earned his business management degree from Springfield (Mass.) College in 2002 and also played football there.

He later earned a master’s in sports management from Springfield while working as a graduate assistant football coach. Also, during this time in graduate school, Brooks had a front-office internship with the NFL’s Houston Texans.

On his time in the NFL, he recalled, “I felt I would have had more of an impact as an entry-level teacher than I had [with the Texans].” Nonetheless, “It was still a great experience.”

Later, as a high school teacher and coach, “I realized as a coach I could impact a group or a unit or a team. But as an athletic director, I could impact the lives of all the students,” Brooks continued.

As a result, he pursued an athletic administration career: He was assistant AD, assistant football coach, and assistant lacrosse coach at Williams (Mass.) College. The school first hired Brooks through a two-year NCAA Division III Ethnic Minority and Women’s Internship grant in 2006, then later promoted him to faculty status.

Brooks later was assistant AD for Peak Performance at Dartmouth for five years, working with over 1,000 athletes; then he spent two and a half years at Millsap, located in Jackson, Miss.

“I love programming and development work. I love to give young people the skills not just in sport, but also in life,” Brooks stressed.

Now at Macalester, which he learned about through one of his best friend’s parents, both Mac alums, he said, “I always knew it was a special place. Macalester has a great academic reputation.

“I also see Macalester as a place for growth in athletics. The resources here are great. What we need now are some athletes who want to take advantage of these resources and be committed.”

Especially athletes of color: “African American students actually have thrived [here],” Brooks noted. “If you want a top-tier academic education and top-tier athletics, you can land a spot at Macalester.”

He fully believes Macalester can become a serious force in all sports in the MIAC. The Scots AD has thrown down a gauntlet to his coaches as well as rest of the MIAC, declaring, “There are no more easy wins.”

MIAC notes

Augsburg (21-4, 16-2 MIAC) is second seed, awaits one of the quarterfinals winners, and will host them Thursday at 7 pm in the six-team MIAC Women’s Basketball Playoffs, which began earlier this week. Top seed St. Thomas (24-1, 18-0) will host the other quarterfinals winner Thursday at 5 pm.

Thursday’s semifinals winners will meet Saturday, tentatively scheduled for 3 pm at a yet-to-be-determined site.