Smith leaving Buchanan and returning to Benton Harbor

Published 10:07 pm Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Buchanan Athletic Director Fred Smith is stepping down to take a similar position at Benton Harbor. (Leader photo/File)

Buchanan Athletic Director Fred Smith is stepping down to take a similar position at Benton Harbor. (Leader photo/File)

They say you can never go home again.

But for veteran Buchanan Athletic Director Fred Smith, that statement is false.

Pending approval by the Benton Harbor Board of Education Tuesday night, Smith will become the Tigers’ athletic director.

Smith’s final day at Buchanan will be Aug. 7 according to his letter of resignation.

“It is never easy to leave a school you love,” Smith said in his letter of resignation. “Buchanan is a great community and I have valued my time here. I could not pass up the opportunity to ‘return home’ to Benton Harbor.

“I started my educational career at Benton Harbor in the winter of 1979 as a student-teacher under the supervision of Earl McKee. I continued for two additional years as a ninth grade football coach and assistant men’s track coach. I was mentored by great men such as Earl McKee, John Brown, Paul Wilhite, Dan Lauer, Eddie Watson, Dick Brahme and the long-time athletic director Herb Quade. Throughout my career, I have wanted to return to Benton Harbor and could not pass up this opportunity when it presented itself.”

Smith served as athletic director at Comstock High School for 16 years before taking over the Buchanan job in 2007.

Smith also serves on numerous MHSAA committees. He also has provided instruction and leadership training at both the state and national levels.

Smith has presented at 12 MHSAA New Athletic Administrator In-Service programs and also presented at the first statewide MHSAA Sportsmanship Summit. He’s also a certified instructor for the MHSAA’s Coaches Advancement Program. Smith has been involved in the NIAAA Leadership Training Program at both the state and national levels, instructing Leadership Training Institute classes in eight states as well as at the MIAAA state and NIAAA national conferences.

Smith has been a member of the MIAAA since 1985 and has served as its president and the co-chairperson of its Professional Development Committee; he earned its Athletic Director of the Year award in 2000 and George Lovich State Award of Merit in 2007. Smith also has been a member of the NIAAA since 1985 and earned both the Thomas E. Frederick Award of Excellence in 2004 and Frank Kovaleski Professional Development Award in 2012.

In 2014, Smith was honored by the MHSAA with the Bush Award.

Smith’s top priority in Benton Harbor will be finding a new football coach for the Tigers. He will be interviewing potential candidates while he helps Buchanan transition to a new athletic director.

“It has been really emotional,” Smith said. “It was really emotional walking into the athletic office because I had a real close relationship with Herb Quade when I became an athletic director. I have to believe he is up above smiling down on me.

“I had the same emotion when I left Comstock to come to Buchanan. I honestly am not very good at goodbyes. I accepted the Buchanan job on a Thursday and on Friday I was in the hospital having back surgery. So I didn’t get back to Comstock until late June to clean out my office. By the time I went back I didn’t have to say goodbye to anybody. I had to make a lot of phone calls to my coaching staff and try to let as many of them know as I could. You don’t work eight years someplace without forming emotional attachments. It is such a great place to work. Such an easy place to be an athletic director because they love their sports and they are successful at it. The coaches are good. The fans are good.”

Smith also noted that Buchanan has a successful floor hockey program that he enjoys. He hopes to start one in the future up in Benton Harbor.

Buchanan Superintendent Andrea van der Laan was unavailable for comment at press time as to when the search for Smith’s replacement would begin.