It is often said in small college athletics that AD's and coaches wear 'many hats'. If that is the case, few people have worn more hats than Dave Lillemon, the long-time director of athletics at Riverland Community College.
Next fall someone new will be wearing the athletic director hat, and all the duties that go with it, as Lillemon has announced his retirement from Riverland, effective on June 16.
Lillemon has served a multitude of Blue Devil roles over the years - and decades - for RCC; in fact, he started at Riverland before it was Riverland. Hired in the fall of 1987 as the head coach for football and men's basketball of Austin Community College, Lillemon has plied the trade of coaching, mentoring, administration and teaching on the fields and courts for over 30 years.
In his time spent at RCC, Lillemon was the football coach for three seasons, skippered the baseball team for almost a decade and was a 16-season fixture as the men's basketball coach, roaming the Blue Devils sidelines and dugouts. He also was the women's softball coach for three seasons and mentored the Riverland golf team for twelve years. All told, 43 seasons worth of interaction with student-athletes, assistant coaches and officials gave Lillemon an amazingly in-depth look at community college athletics, it's sports and those which participate as an athlete, coach, official or fan.
Not surprisingly, the NJCAA sought to tap into this experience by asking Lillemon to serve as the Region XIII Men's Director in the mid-2000's. Region XIII, one of NJCAA's largest geographic footprints, was led by Lillemon from 2003 to 2007.
While the legacy of game plans, practice time and countless student-athlete award recipients speaks for itself, Lillemon is also well-known for his quality work in the 'soft skills' that accompany sport administration. He is a fixture with many area sports news communities and fundraising events, including speaking to alumni and Hall of Fame groups annually. Lillemon spearheaded the RCC golf outing and similar development activities, duties which made him the face of Riverland Athletics throughout the community.
Lillemon, an alum of Minot State, pioneered not only the concept of a Hall of Fame at Riverland, but the opportunity to recognize entire teams for notable performances, not just individual athletes or coaches. This philosophy fits for a sport professional who has served in almost every possible 'position' in the Blue Devil athletic department team. It also speaks to a person who was a gracious and engaging professional, always representing Riverland Community College in the best possible light.
Additionally, colleagues at Riverland noted Lillemon's work as a historian for the Blue Devil athletic department. This work was highlighted in the college's 75th anniversary celebration, when Lillemon's diligence in fact-finding allowed for players, coaches and teams to be recognized for achievements far after their playing days were over. The commemoration of the 75 years of the college was highlighted by Lillemon's ability to pull together important stats, records and stories of athletic years gone by.
Lillemon's next chapter will certainly involve some additional time spent with his family, particularly watching his own kids participate in sports, as well as travel to his home state of North Dakota. However, he may be advised to turn off the ringer on his cell phone, as the next athletic director at Riverland will likely be calling him for some advice and mentoring as have many athletes, coaches and community members from in and around Austin have been doing for over 30 years.
Story courtesy of MCAC Sports and Riverland Community College