DANVILLE — When he was hired in 2019, Eric Crist wanted to make his impact for Schlarman Academy athletics.

While his time as Athletics Director was a short one, it was one where he saw some good strides for the programs.

“I didn’t want to be the guy sitting behind the desk,” Crist said. “I wanted to go out to the games and get involved in any way with the kids and help them play sports, because the world is a crazy place and sports provide us with a way to forget what is going on in the world and it has been a passion of mine and I wanted to instill that passion.

“I think kids realize that have to put work in the classroom before going out and play and we saw a jump in grade and class participation and lastly I wanted to teach kids it is bigger than you. It wasn’t me versus them, it was us and it was like that throughout the department. “

Crist will step down from the Schlarman AD position to accept an Assistant Athletic Director position at Fort Lewis College, a NCAA Division II school in Durango, Colo.

“It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Crist said. “To make a jump from a IHSA Class A school to an NCAA Division II, it is hard to pass that up.”

The process was a quick one that started late last year.

It all happened quickly. I have a good friend, Logan Bryant, that works there as an administrator and told me about the position this winter,” Crist said. “I was actually at the Big Ten Tournament as part of the event staff and I got an e-mail about an interview and jumped on it the Friday of the Big Ten Tournament.

“I had a second interview with them a week later and they heard that my mom passed away and they gave me some extra days to give me a call. I think it happened very quickly. I wasn’t searching, but it is an opportunity to go to a NCAA Division II and it was impossible to pass up and trust yourself and your career moves.”

Crist came in just as the Hilltoppers’ football team started their journey in 8-man football and saw the start of the burgeoning tennis programs.

“I felt we had that passion in the respective sports and in the classroom and community. We were able to get the football team back up and getting them to host a playoff game was great for us and the team and alumni across the country,” Crist said. “We added a girls tennis program for the first time and to see them win their first game was an awesome feeling because a lot of those girls never played tennis before. Seeing their smiles was what I wanted to achieve. We are going to have a boys tennis team this spring and I oversaw that.”

Also, with a pandemic, he said that the Hilltoppers’ record of games played during this time speaks for itself.

“We had a world pandemic and to go through that was an experience. I think we did a great job and everyone at Schlarman did a good job to stop the spread,” Crist said. “We didn’t lose any games because of it nor had an outbreak. We were able to mitigate the spread and that was something I look back on and everyone that committed to play.”

Even though he is going to Colorado, Crist said that he will be taking Danville with him.

“I really enjoyed my time at Schlarman and the community of Danville as well,” Crist said. “I am from Tuscola originally and never really made the trip here, but it became a second home, I have to thank everyone for reaching out and helping me be a better person and Athletics director.”

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