Five days after walking into his office at Presbyterian College, Brian Reese faced his first dose of adversity.
On July 6, 2010, the first-time athletic director received word that Presbyterian’s transition from Division II was being delayed a year. Instead of entering the 2011-12 season as a full-fledged Division I member, the NCAA, after reviewing the school's self-study, deemed the Blue Hose weren’t ready for the move up.
“That was a huge hiccup that I didn’t have anything to do with,” Reese said, “but right away I’m facing that.”
It didn’t stop there.
Nearly a year later, Reese had to make the tough decision to cut the men’s lacrosse program, which had been a varsity sport since 2006 but didn’t have a conference affiliation.
“It is just stuff you see in small colleges that you have to do to make sure you’re able to sustain your athletic department,” Reese said. “Everything that we did at Vanderbilt, I feel like really helped me prepare for all the decisions and everything I had to make here.”
Beginning his third year at Presbyterian, Reese returns this weekend to Vanderbilt, where he first dove into athletic administration 10 years ago, as a guest. The Commodores will face the Blue Hose in football, 11:30 a.m. at Vanderbilt Stadium.
A former athletic trainer at Furman, Reese followed football coach Bobby Johnson to Vanderbilt, joining him as his director of football operations in 2002.
He moved up in the department, eventually being named an associate director of student athletics in 2008. Along the way, he oversaw the start of the women’s bowling program in 2004 and served as the chair of the NCAA Bowling Committee.
He credits his experiences at Vanderbilt — which, two months ago ended a nine-year period in which it did not have an athletics director — in preparing him for the challenges at Presbyterian. He still consults regularly with Vanderbilt vice chancellor David Williams, who was named athletic director in July, and said Vanderbilt’s idea to integrate the athletic department with the rest of the university was one of his first decisions at Presbyterian.
“When I got the job here it was easy for me to say ... ‘We’re going to continue the integration of our student-athletes into the college.’ That’s where we got really strong marks from the NCAA,” Reese said. “We have our student athletes in leadership positions across campus. We take a lot of pride in that.”
As of last month, Presbyterian is officially a member of NCAA Division I, ending a five-year transition. The private liberal arts school in Clinton, S.C., with an enrollment of 1,200 undergraduates is the smallest in the Football Championship Subdivision.
The men’s basketball team upset No. 20 Cincinnati last year and defeated Auburn and Wake Forest the year before. The men’s tennis team reached the Big South Conference championship and the football team won a school-best three league games last year.
“I really feel like all of our teams went through the transition very well and positioned themselves for success in the Big South, which is what you want to do coming out of a transition,” Reese said.