EAST MOLINE — Mark Pustelnik is ready for another school year as athletic director of United Township High School. This one, though, will be different for him.
For this school year, his third as AD, he will be the senior athletic director in the Western Big 6.
“Even though I am the most senior AD, I’m still learning to do things better; that is part of growing. We hope to do stuff better every year,” Pustelnik said. “We definitely have a young group of ADs, but I am confident. I have spoken to Michelle Lillis (Rock Island’s new AD) a few times already and she has a really good grasp on things.”
Lillis is one of two new ADs in the WB6. Long-time Moline AD Todd Rosenthal retired at the end of June and was replaced by Dick Knar.
Alleman’s Joe Conklin and Quincy’s Scott Douglas both came in July 1, 2016, and will be starting their second years. Galesburg’s Scott Flater started at the same time as Pustelnik, although Pustelnik was hired by UT just before Flater at Galesburg.
That adds up to six as the total number of years of AD service in the conference going into this school year.
As Pustelnik notes, however, ADs now at Big 6 schools come with a lot of athletics experience.
“Anything in athletics, coaching for a long period of time, you’ve got your foot in the door,” he said. Pustelnik, a 1986 graduate of UT and a former state wrestling champion, is a member of the Illinois Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame.
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It is that coaching experience that will guide the Big 6 into its new water.
“Most coaches, and it is true for wrestling, and especially track & field with Lillis, have to do a lot of things on their own,” Pustelnik said. “As a coach, you don’t have mats set out for you; you don’t have hurdles put away for you. You are used to working and used to working long hours, which is what this job entails. It’s definitely a 60-hour work week, if not more, but with the commitment you had already made toward your sport, you already know what the work ethic involves. You just have to do it for three seasons, instead of one.”
With all of the new WB6 ADs, it is odd that only one was hired, at Moline, because of a retirement.
“One (Steve Smithers at Alleman) went to Marist; one at Quincy took an assistant principal’s job, and Rocky’s left for another (football coaching) job,” said UT’s AD. “It’s just one of those freaky situations, boom, boom, boom, to make it like this.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it was only one or two leave in the next 10 years.”
If there is an issue with a conference of mostly new ADs, it is having a grasp on the history of ways certain situations had been handled.
“There were a lot of situations where Todd Rosenthal, with 18 years of experience, would know more than me or other ADs,” Pustelnik said. “He knows the history and used his expertise in order to handle certain things.”
Still, having new ADs blood in the conference carries with it a long list of positives potential.
“We get along really well,” Pustelnik said of those that make up the new look of Big 6 sports management. “A lot of it is how good is your principal, how good is your secretary. I know that at UT, our administration team is top notch and that helps. You always have those resources.”