Upton new Niles AD

Jeff Upton took over as Niles athletic director on July 1. (Daily Star Photo/SCOTT NOVAK)

On July 1, the Niles Athletic Department got a new face.

Jeff Upton replaced John Danaher as the athletic director. Danaher will remain with the school district in another capacity, according to Superintendent Richard Weigel.

Upton has lived in Berrien County most of his life, a graduate of St. Joseph High School. He spent the last 12 years in Florida running a small business, which he sold and moved back to the area.

“I have always had a passion for sports. I have always been involved with youth athletics,” he said Monday. “Combine that with a business background and my dream job would be athletic director. I have been working toward that. I have been taking some classes through Ohio University and the opportunity came up with Niles and it seemed like the perfect fit.”

Upton, who is the brother of U.S. Representative Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), said that these are challenging times for the education system, and that includes athletics.

“We have two choices. We can change and adapt to the new system or we can sit back and complain. So we have to change.”

Upton said that the athletic department at Niles is participating in the budget cuts, although just arriving on the job last week, he does not know fully what that entails.

“I am in the process of meeting with the coaches right now,” he said. “We are going to try to minimize the effect on the student-athlete. We are going to try and make it the best program it can be.”

Upton realizes that the budget is going to have to be shaved, but hopes that by increasing revenue sources outside the school system, those can be offset.

“We have business partners. I am meeting with those business partners and trying to expand that,” Upton noted.

According to Upton, the Niles athletic programs have a good base on which to build. He noted the successes last year of the boys and girls basketball programs, as well as the boys golf team and baseball team.

He also pointed out that the boys basketball program was in the top five in the state academically.

“What is success in an athletic program? Wins and losses are pretty easy to figure out. But are we making improvements academically as well as athletically? That is the mission of the athletic department. The mission of our school district is to inspire locally and excel globally.”

Upton feels that Niles, the largest district in the area, has enough talent to compete in the athletic arena.

“We have all the talent in the world,” he said. “We have good coaches. Our middle school has had extreme success. We have a good base for our high school level.”

Upton added that the overview of the Niles athletic program will be in the details he plans to fill in by meeting with all the coaches and the athletes in the coming weeks.

“Athletically, we have a good base, but we need to expand that. We need to strive for more district championships. For more regional championships. We need to strive to win our conference,” he said.

Despite the fact that he is still getting his feet wet, Upton understands that there are challenges that lay ahead.

“I really look forward to the challenge. It’s all about our student-athletes. We can do better. We can excel and I am here to help do that.”

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