For someone who has spent nearly his entire professional career in collegiate athletic marketing and administration, David Herbster is familiar with the concept of being at the right place, at the right time.
“So many times in athletics, it’s all about timing,” Herbster said.
President James Abbott named Herbster the University of South Dakota’s interim athletic director Dec. 13, 2012 after David Sayler announced his resignation from the position. Sayler resigned to take the same position at the University of Miami in Oxford, Ohio, which is his hometown state.
Herbster, previously the senior associate athletic director, said he was surprised by Sayler’s resignation.
“That’s the funny thing about athletics,” Herbster said. “It seems like things always happen unexpectedly. We weren’t expecting to lose Sayler, but when opportunity presented itself to him, it wasn’t one he was looking for. It found him.”
However, Herbster was not surprised when he was chosen to fill the position.
“It all happened so fast, Sayler told me he was leaving and President Abbott wanted to see me. I kind of knew what the next step was going to be.”
Abbott said he outlined his plan for the position to Herbster after Sayler’s announcement.
“When I appointed David Herbster to interim athletic director, I indicated that at the end of six months time, we would review the situation and we would move on from there,” Abbott said.
When asked about the possible options in the future regarding the position, Abbott listed two scenarios.
“The choices would be to conduct an open search or dispense with the search and make David the permanent A.D.,” Abbott said.
For Herbster to potentially keep the position on a long-term basis, Abbott listed several priorities for the six-month period.
“The most important task for an athletic director at USD, right now, would be to make sure we are Division-I compliant,” he said. “Secondly, I think it’s important to focus on fundraising for the arena.”
The interim A.D. echoed Abbott’s priorities for the position and expressed his desire to get the multi-sport arena fundraising project moving as quickly as possible.
“I think we need to solidify this athletic capital campaign,” Herbster said. “Raising funds for the (athletic complex) is key. This project is hot out of stove and now we really need to put it on the plate and put it on the kitchen table.”
However, Herbster was quick to mention the university will not neglect its student athletes.
“Finding funding comes first and foremost while making sure we don’t lose sight of taking care of our student athletes,” Herbster said. “I look at those two as the main priorities.”
Additionally, Herbster wants to stay ahead of the conference realignments that are abundant throughout collegiate athletics.
“Second priority is making sure we keep a pulse on conference affiliation,” he said. “The landscape of college athletics is an evolving thing so we want to make sure that whatever happens, we’re prepared for it.”
Herbster is no stranger to the interim position, as he previously served as USD’s interim AD in 2010 after Joel Nielsen departed for the athletic director position at Kent State University in Ohio. He was also a finalist for the permanent position when the university conducted an open search.
At the time, Abbot said Herbster’s lack of Division-I experience ultimately ruled him out of the position.
“I made it clear to him that if, after reviewing all of the candidates, I decided Division-I experience was absolutely necessary, he would not get the job because he didn’t have significant experience (in Div. I). He did not get it for that reason,” Abbott said.
A former Division-I basketball player for his alma mater Virginia Tech, Herbster cited his competitive nature as a source of motivation to seize the opportunity that eluded him
“President Abbott knows I don’t like to lose,” he said. “That’s the competitor in me. If you’re going to jump in, jump in with both feet. It’s the competitor in me to get this project done. It’s the competitor to make sure that the University of South Dakota is positioned to be in the best spot.”
With two and a half years of Division-I experience behind him, Abbott expressed confidence that Herbster will likely shed the interim title.
“If I were a betting man, I would put my money on David Herbster as the long-term athletic director,” Abbott said.