Steamboat grad earns lifetime achievement award after decades as an athletic director
For Greg Waggoner, a 1975 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, athletics were the reason he went to college and what directed his education and career paths.
While he retired in 2019 after spending more than three decades as a coach or athletic director, Waggoner is the recipient of the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Division II Athletic Directors Association.
“Recognition means a lot. It does,” Waggoner said. “The fact that someone else recognized it, the fact I was nominated by someone that was a former coach of mine, the fact that I helped mentor somebody into that position and that’s who has nominated you — there’s certain things that provide a deeper meaning. I’m very honored for sure.”
Waggoner served as a full-time employee at Western Colorado University for 29 years, including 20 years as Athletic Director.
After a brief retirement in Colorado, Waggoner took a job as athletic director at Eastern New Mexico University, where he worked for three years before retiring in 2019.
“Dr. Greg Waggoner’s service, leadership and passion for athletics has been extraordinary, and Eastern New Mexico University and Western Colorado University have been the beneficiary of his wisdom and caring ways,” said D2 ADA President Bren Stevens in a news release.
His work at both Division II universities earned him a nomination and selection for the Lifetime Achievement Award.
“It’s been a long journey for him. And it’s a long journey for all of us,” said Pam Good, Waggoner’s sister. “His young life, our young life, was pretty rough, but we had a really strong father and community base with our father’s family. What really, really saved many of us was sports.”
Waggoner didn’t see college as a realistic option until his junior year of high school when he started getting recruited. He finished third at the state championships that year and was a favorite to win his senior year, but was upset. However, his scholarship at Western Colorado University (then known as Western State College), still stood. So, he wrestled through college and soon discovered a career path.
“I loved sports. I loved competing and that gave me an opportunity to make a living around it,” Waggoner said. “The bigger reason (I became an athletic director) was the impact my mentors had on me.”
His first mentor was his father. Then he found more in high school with coaches Carl Ramunno and Bob Harris. In college, he was coached and inspired by Tracy Borah.
“When I got into college, my college coach was just gigantic and legendary,” Waggoner said. “He was so big. It wasn’t just teaching me how to wrestle and to do well. It was to guide me in life.”
That guidance got Waggoner through college and into a coaching job at Northglenn High School.
A couple years later, Waggoner was convinced to go back to Gunnison. He coached part time while earning his doctorate in sports administration from the University of Northern Colorado.
In 1994, he took over as athletic director. Waggoner strove to help people just like him: people who maybe wouldn’t have considered college without sports.
“Intercollegiate athletics is a vehicle to motivate them. Without that, I wouldn’t have gone to college or stayed in college. It’s one of the redeeming qualities athletics brings people,” he said. “To experience that as an athlete and provide that as a coach, as an athletic director I wanted my coaches to have that same approach.”
Waggoner also took pride in being at an underfunded, rural, small-market Division II school and fundraising “beyond the perceived capacity.” With that money, he said, the college expanded programs and improved resources, helping coaches provide athletes with an even more competitive collegiate experience.
He also served as president of the Division II Athletic Directors Association from 2010 to 2012, helping establish the first-ever D2 ADA Strategic Plan and launched the Women and Minority Mentoring program.
In 2014, Waggoner retired in Colorado and spent some time traveling with his wife, Gloria.
He was getting antsy though, and came upon an opportunity to work at Eastern New Mexico University, another Division II school where a friend used to work. Waggoner had heard a lot of good things, so he applied and got the job. He worked there through 2019 when he retired again.
Of all his years in collegiate athletics, Waggoner is most proud of his brief stint as wrestling coach at both the high school and collegiate levels.
“Overall, it would be, I think, the impact and relationships I’ve hoped I’ve had and I think I’ve had with the student-athletes,” he said. “Some of the relationships I still carry on with young men I’ve coached, and knowing where they’ve come from and what I see them doing now, I beam with pride. They’ve gone on to be successful and have families, and they’re just good people. That’s easily No. 1.”
Now, Waggoner and his wife are traveling in a motor home, finding all the great fishing spots they can, while spending some time with their two kids and three grandchildren. They plan to sweep through Steamboat Springs this year for the first time in ages following a trip to Yellowstone with family.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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