New Athletic Director Hits Ground Running at HFCC
Rochelle Taylor looks forward to extrapolating her vast experience in college sports into her new position as athletic director at HFCC.
“While at the NCAA, I was fortunate to work with colleges and universities all over the country. I’ve been on so many campuses, whether it’s a small, private Division III school or Ohio State University, which has the largest athletic program in the country,” said Taylor, of Detroit. “I’ve worked with college presidents, coaches, administrators, faculty—it was an opportunity to work with so many different types of people all over the country,” she added.
Taylor replaces long-time AD Nancy Bryden, who served for 27 years. James Nelson and Abe Mashhour were both interim ADs before Taylor was hired earlier this year. In this position, Taylor reports to Dr. Lisa Jones-Harris, vice president of Student Affairs.
“I’m from Detroit. When the position opened, I thought HFCC would be the perfect fit,” said Taylor. “We have a well-organized and dedicated staff here.”
She is a 1978 alumna of Immaculata High School in Detroit, where she ran track and cross-country. She attended the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) on a track scholarship and set a record in the 800 meter run (which is a half-mile) with a time of 2:04.2. She graduated in 1982 with an undergraduate degree in Business Administration. She has a graduate degree in Educational Administration/Sports Administration from Wayne State University, which she earned in 1985.
Additionally, Taylor was a three-time All-American at UTEP, as well as an All-American and Academic All-American in high school. Although she is reticent to promote her accomplishments, she also achieved All-American status at the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) level multiple times for numerous events.
Following college graduation, she returned to Michigan. She coached track and eventually became the athletic director at St. Mary’s of Redford High School in Detroit. At the same time, she was attending graduate school at Wayne State.
“It was great on-the-job experience because I was in school for sports administration—it was perfect,” said Taylor.
During graduate school, she interned for three months at the University of Michigan Athletic Department in Ann Arbor. She was hired on as a promotions assistant after completion of her internship and subsequent graduation.
“This was back in the days when Bo Schembechler coached football, Bill Frieder coached basketball and Don Canham was the AD. (Canham) set the bar high in terms of running an athletic department: the marketing, the branding. That was pretty new back then. He was a great innovator for athletic administration,” recalled Taylor.
“It was a wonderful experience working at U of M, where there were lots of resources, lots of winning records and I was learning the business at that high level,” she added.
After a three-year stint as the assistant athletic director for North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, N.C., Taylor worked for the NCAA for 14 years. In her first 10 years, she ran various summer youth programs that the NCAA sponsored in conjunction with various championships. She eventually became the director of Professional Development, where she oversaw the NCAA’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. These included programs that focused on positioning women and minorities into senior athletic positions.
One of the perks of working for the NCAA was attending various college bowl games and the Final Four Basketball Tournaments. However, working for the NCAA opened up Taylor’s eyes to the fact that the business of college sports is indeed big business.
“The downside was it got me a little bit away from the pure nature of sports, which is to help young people grow and develop and learn life skills,” explained Taylor.
To get back to those roots, Taylor became the president of the National Youth Sports Corp. in Indianapolis, Ind. There, she oversaw programs that combined sports and academic activities for more than 75,000 youths worldwide.
Most recently, she worked as a youth sports consultant for such clients as the Indiana Center for Cultural Exchange (ICCE) at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. In her role with the ICCE, she worked with coaches from Algeria, Zanzibar and Tanzania, enhancing and developing their models of competitive sports, physical education curriculum and interscholastic sports programs for schools.
It is these significant accomplishments and diverse qualifications that make Taylor the perfect fit to be HFCC’s AD, according to Jones-Harris.
“Rochelle brings a rich background in local and national intercollegiate athletics, athletic management, understanding of the importance of service and community partnerships and in youth and college student development,” Jones-Harris said. “She is an experienced manager and leader, and conducts herself as a mentor and role model to scholar athletes. We are happy to have her on board. We look forward to the many contributions she will make to the college.”
One of Taylor’s immediate goals is to have athletes engaged in community outreach, performing various community service projects and helping to develop their character.
“We want our athletes to serve as positive role models for the youth in our community. We want to not only provide athletes competition within our conference, but also provide the resources in making sure their experience here at HFCC is a positive one,” said Taylor.
In turn, one of the challenges Taylor faces is that there are no athletic fields for spring sports on the main campus: athletes have to play at off-campus fields for home games. Usually, not many people show up.
“I want to change that. Even though we have to play our home games off-campus, I’m hoping to step up the support from the students and the fans. I want our athletes to feel like they’re at home—that is very important to Hawk athletics,” she explained. “I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to put my stamp on the college’s athletic program, and I’m also looking forward to the upcoming year,” she added.