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Long Beach State

New Long Beach State Athletic Director Bobby Smitheran Introduced At Press Conference

The562’s coverage of Long Beach State athletics for the 2022-23 season is sponsored by Marilyn Bohl.

There was a down-home feel at the introductory press conference on Friday for Bobby Smitheran, the new athletic director at Long Beach State.

The Smitheran family has ties to Long Beach dating back to 1917, and Bobby had his family on hand at Walter Pyramid including his father, Jack, who is a member of the Long Beach Baseball Hall Of Fame, the Long Beach Century Club Hall Of Fame and the Wilson High School Hall Of Fame.

READ MORE about Bobby Smitheran

LBSU vice president and chief financial officer Scott Apel spoke first and said, “Bobby was head and shoulders above the crowd and it was an easy decision to make,”  “We had feedback from all over campus and it was all extremely positive for Bobby. It was a wonderful time for me to be able to welcome him back to Long Beach, and his roots. We’re just very excited to have him here at Long Beach State.”

University President Jane Close Conoley also spoke and brought Smitheran up to the podium to address a room full of LBSU staff, donors and fans.

“What I knew going into this process was that Beach athletics is a nationally recognized brand built on a rich tradition of athletic excellence, names synonymous with the very best in their sport and a fan base that’s proud to call Long Beach home,” Smitheran said. “Upon doing a deeper dive, it’s evident to me that there exists a standard of excellence with a desire by the University administration, the athletic department and certainly the coaching staff to achieve greater heights.”

LBSU has won the last two Big West Commissioner’s Cup awards for being the best athletic department in the conference.

READ MORE about the challenges Smitheran will face

“As a California State University institution, Long Beach State University aligns with my educational philosophy of opportunity and access… I believe my hire signals a desire by President Cololey to ensure that athletic achievement and academic excellence are not mutually exclusive,” he added.

Smitheran, who starts at LBSU on Aug. 21, is leaving San Diego State where he was the executive associate athletics director for student-athlete academic support services. SDSU has had great success in men’s basketball and softball this year, and when asked what it will take to get LBSU to that level, Smitheran talked about interpersonal relationships.

“As a leader, it starts with the people,” he said. “What has been accomplished at SDSU is about the people, the culture and that’s got to be paramount to who we are. It’s how you pull all the people together. It seems contrived, and it’s easier to say and hard to do. But in speaking to the (LBSU staff) all of those pieces are there for success, and great success. It’s going to take the community as well. That’s philanthropy, facility improvement. In this world we live in with Name Image Likeness, the transfer portal, This is not your grandfather’s college athletics anymore. We have to think forward about how we’re going to do this in a way that attracts student athletes to Long Beach State University. And then create an environment to help them strive for excellence.”

The Smitheran family history in Long Beach started when Bobby’s great grandfather moved here to build World War I ships. His grandfather was in the first graduation class at Wilson High School, and scored the first ever touchdown for the football program. His sons Dave, Bill and Jack are all in the Wilson Hall of Fame.

Last week, we talked to Smitheran about his Long Beach connections…

Question: So, can you talk to us about what this place means to you?

Answer: You better be ready to take a lot of notes (laughing)… There’s connections all over the place. Long Beach was a city I came to as a child to visit the grandparents and the whole family. Especially the holidays and Fourth of July. It’s got a special place in my heart because of that.”

Q: Do you remember what you thought about Long Beach?

A: I thought it was a unique environment. We spent a lot of time in Belmont Shore and eating on 2nd St. I have nothing but just great memories of family being together.

Q: Did it leave an impression on you?

A: I could tell it was a connected community and people were proud to be from Long Beach, so that is something I always carried with me… even coming back for this interview process, all of those feelings and emotions came flooding back as I came off the freeway. They lived off of Studebaker Road and just taking that turn and being close to the campus and seeing my grandparents house was really a special moment for me.

Q: Was being an athletic director always a goal of yours?

A: Being AD is not something I’ve chased but I felt like if I put my head down, worked hard and was true to myself and my values that possibly that opportunity would come. The Long Beach job came available and it piqued my interest… You put the family component on top of (administrative support) and for me it was a no brainer to pursue the position. I was very happy at San Diego State University, but there were only a couple jobs that would be enticing and Long Beach was at the top of that.

Q: Do you think the strong athletic tradition in Long Beach can help you succeed at LBSU?

A: The community support and engagement is so critical to what we want to achieve with Beach athletics. As I said to the staff in my interview, we are better together than we are apart. That goes for the campus, the community and the pride that people have. We are in the business of putting on events and for our fans we want that to be a special environment. Knowing that there’s that community there with pride, I think there’s a really great opportunity to bring those people back together in the spirit of demonstrating what’s great about the City of Long Beach and Long Beach State University.

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.