By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- It was meant to be a routine return trip from James Madison University back to Baltimore.
Dr. Wayne Edwards, then the athletic director at NCAA Division I Towson University, had made the trip many times before, about once or twice a year on average. As a friend of JMU athletic director Jeff Bourne, Edwards thought it worth the trip to Harrisonburg to catch football, basketball and baseball games between the Tigers and the Dukes.
But as Edwards cruised down Interstate 81 through Winchester, another sight, if only for a brief moment, made the trip an intriguing one: When the interstate crosses over a narrow, two-lane road, then gives way to stadium lights, and then to Shenandoah University's Shentel Stadium.
"That stadium was my introduction to this school," said Edwards, who was recently hired as the athletic director at Shenandoah, a position he will start full-time on Jan. 4. "Every time I'd go down [to JMU] I'd see that stadium and I thought, 'Boy, that's pretty cool."'
Shentel Stadium was such an attractive sight that, a few years ago, Edwards scooted off I-81, sputtered along Shockey Drive, under the interstate, and took a gander at the facility.
At the time, Edwards couldn't have known he'd soon be employed by the small, Winchester school, surely; but this past May, when the athletic director position opened, the memory of Shenandoah University returned to Edwards, and so he decided to give the job a chance.
"Back in the summer, back when the position was open, I told my wife that would be a great place to be," he explained. "I just sent an application and a resume and things sort of went from there."
Edwards brings with him a wealth of experience rarely seen at an NCAA Division III school like Shenandoah University.
A North Carolina man, Edwards received his undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University, his master's degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and his doctoral degree in educational administration from Peabody College, an institution which in 1979 was absorbed by Vanderbilt University.
Then came Edwards' string of teaching jobs.
He bounced from Appalachian State University, where he was an assistant professor and directed the recreational sports program, to East Carolina University, where he was an associate professor.
In 1984, Edwards went to Yale University, where he was one of four associate athletic directors under full-time AD and former Redskins quarterback Frank Ryan. The position at Yale was Edwards' first in athletics, and it opened for him a new career path he never initially intended to get into.
"At East Carolina we built a very extensive recreational services program with intramurals and sport clubs and outdoor recreation -- whitewater rafting trips and that kind of thing -- and I was teaching two courses, and I really thought I was there for the duration -- I thought that's what I was going to do," Edwards said.
At Yale he became directly involved with the athletic department, overseeing the polo and equestrian center, the ice arena and the strength and conditioning program.
In 1987, he became the director of athletics at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, after which he became the athletic director at Towson for 11 years.
For years, Towson athletics was in a state of flux. The Tigers were members of various athletic conferences before, under Edwards, they finally settled in the Colonial Athletic Association. Edwards also saw the construction of Johnny Unitas Stadium and John B. Schuerholz Park, named after the former Atlanta Braves general manager.
Unitas, who worked on Edwards' staff at Towson and had several children graduate from the university, threw the football stadium's ceremonial first-pass to former Baltimore Colts teammate Raymond Berry. Five days later, Unitas, or John, as Edwards refers to him, died of a heart attack. Eventually, Towson's board of trustees agreed to name the stadium after Unitas, who helped raise funds for its construction.
"I've still got a picture -- that I'll bring here when I move -- of John and me he had given to me just before he died," Edwards said. "... He really did a lot to help us raise the last money for the stadium and eventually our board of trustees decided to name the stadium for him."
After Towson had gone through four presidents in two years, Edwards retired from his athletic director position in 2006.
Still residing in Baltimore, he served as the Sports Committee Chairman of the Camden Yards Sports and Entertainment Commission. The duties of the commission are to bring sports and entertainment attractions to Baltimore, specifically to M&T Bank Stadium and Camden Yards when the facilities aren't in use by the Ravens and Orioles. This past summer, M&T Bank Stadium hosted an exhibition soccer match between D.C. United and Real Madrid; in years past, the stadium has hosted the NCAA Lacrosse Championship Weekend.
But despite working with such high-profile sporting events, Edwards missed the campus life.
"I enjoy football Saturday mornings, and being around pre-game meals, and taping and locker room involvements," he said.
So when the SU athletic director position opened at about the same time, he sent in an application and his resume.
"Fortunately I was one of 10 that they did phone interviews with," he explained, "and one of four they decided to bring on campus.
"Then one of two that were brought back for a second interview, and one of one that got offered the job."
And Edwards knows what kind of job awaits him in the near future. He knows Shenandoah needs a new indoor athletic facility, and must soon settle into an athletic conference which welcomes all of Shenandoah's sports, instead of competing in the USA South in some sports, and the Middle Atlantic Conference in others.
And as far as athletic performance goes, such as the Hornets' disappointing 1-9 football season, he says "we'll be just fine."
"What I bring to the table is vision," Edwards said. "... I think it's a good place to be; I think we have great people; I'm very excited about being the only college in this county.
"All I can say is stick with us: We're gonna do some really good things."