Park University director of athletics Claude English is in his 22nd full year and his 23rd season as the University's AD in 2016-17, starting his tenure as athletics director in January of 1996. In his 22-year term, English has guided Park through a steady athletics program improvement, including enhancing facilities and providing student-athletes with a first-rate experience at Park.
The 2015-16 season saw eight programs represented in a possible 15 NAIA national championship events, including a regular-season title in softball and another surge to the top of the NAIA top 25 in women's volleyball. Also in 2015-16, Park University Athletics gained regional recognition for its community service, providing more than 3,000 bottles of water to the Flint, Michigan, community, as well as collecting nearly 2,000 pounds of food for Harvesters.
In 2015-16, Park had 102 academic all-conference honorees, 43 all-conference performers, eight All-Americans, one CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors of America) Academic All-American and six CoSIDA academic all-district honorees. In addition, 34 Park student-athletes won the NAIA’s most prestigious academic award as Daktronics-NAIA scholar-athletes. Two athletes were selected as conference player of the year in their respective sports, while two more were tabbed as newcomer of the year and freshman of the year.
Park's 2014-15 was highlighted by the Park University women's volleyball team's 40-0 run to the NAIA National Championship in Sioux City, Iowa. Under English's watch, fan support for the program spiked, and under his guidance, Park volleyball coach Mike Talamantes was the conference, AVCA national, NAIA national and Kansas City Sports Commission Coach of the Year.
The Pirates had their first-ever Capital One Academic All-Americans of the Year in 2014-15, as Wanessa Siqueira won the award for volleyball and overall, and Callie Beaver won the award in college division softball.
In 2013-14, Park picked up its fourth NAIA volleyball men's championship, and the 2012-13 academic year saw three conference championships,three coaches earn coach of the year recognition, and an administrator, Assistant AD for Sports Communications Steve Wilson, was named the NAIA's Ike Pearson Award Winner, which goes to a sports information director that has exhibited excellence in the profession.
In all, five coaches on English's current staff have been named NAIA, conference, or region coaches of the year, while the sports communications office has been recognized for 22 top-10 finishes in NAIA-SIDA publications contests, including website of the year, a project English oversaw, in both 2009-10 and 2014-15.
In 2011-12, English had chief oversight in Park's newest addition to its list of facilities when the Track & Field Complex opened as a training ground for the track and cross country teams. The six-lane, competition-ready track sits adjacent to the 1,500-seat Julian Field, which is also undergoing seating renovations in 2012-13, and the Park University Softball Complex, which upgraded its sound system in the 2013 season.
Prior to 2010-11, English was honored for his service as an athletics administrator by being inducted into the McLendon Minority Athletics Administrators Hall of Fame, June 23, 2010, in Anaheim, Calif., representing the NAIA in a group of seven individuals honored by the John McLendon Minority Scholarship Foundation. The Foundation supports the John McLendon Memorial Minority Postgraduate Scholarship Awards and is presented to senior-level minority students who intend to pursue a graduate degree in athletics administration.
English was joined in the 2010 McLendon Hall of Fame induction class by Percy Bates, Bernie Bickerstaff, Howard Gentry, Sr., Michael Haynes, Rafer Johnson and Don Newcombe, while a second group of Pioneer Award winners was also honored. That group included Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez, Ernie Davis, Mike Garrett, Tom Goss, Dan Guerrero, Charles Harris, Tommy Hawkins, Kim Ng, Fritz Pollard, Burl Toler and Tyrone Willingham.
Later in 2010-11, English was inducted into the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame, in his home town of Columbus, Ga.
English began his affiliation with Park University in the 1992-93 men’s basketball season, coaching the Pirates through the end of the 2004-05 campaign. For his final 10 seasons at the helm of the Park men’s basketball program, English also assumed the duties of Director of Athletics, a position he will continue into his 15th year in the 2010-11 academic year.
During his tenure as Park’s Director of Athletics, English has guided the addition of two spring sports – baseball and women’s golf – in addition to facility upgrades throughout the department of athletics.
Park’s facility upgrades under English’s watch began with the 1,500-seat Julian Field, home to Park University men’s and women’s soccer, followed by the 1,200-seat Breckon Sports Center, constructed in 2000 to become the home of Park University’s men’s and women’s basketball programs, as well as its men’s and women’s volleyball programs. Breckon Sports Center houses administrative offices and two domes – one for competition and one for practice.
Recent upgrades to Park’s softball and baseball facilities have also come under English’s watch, including new dugouts at the Park University Softball Complex, as well as new bleachers and game-scoring facilities at Comfort Field, the home of Park University baseball.
English was the winningest coach in Park University men’s basketball history until the 2015-16 season, compiling 182 wins to push his overall win total to 227. Current head coach Jason Kline recorded his 183rd win on the Park sidelines in 2016, during the Pirates' run to the Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship. From 1980 to 1984, English was the head men’s basketball coach at his alma mater, Rhode Island, where he was named Atlantic-10 Conference Coach of the Year in the 1980-81 season.
His coaching tenure at Park was highlighted by the Pirates’ run to the NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament semifinal round in 1997-98, which ended with a school-record mark of 27-8. English was honored at the national tournament with the Charles A. Krigel Award for outstanding sportsmanship, while his team was awarded the Dr. James Naismith-Emil S. Liston Sportsmanship Award for the team recognized as most sportsmanlike at the tourney.
After a stellar collegiate playing career for Christian College in Dallas, Texas, and the University of Rhode Island, English was selected in the NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers where he played the 1970-71 season. English also played in the Eastern Basketball Association for the Hartford Capitals, the affiliate team for the Philadelphia 76ers. In 1973-74, English won the Eastern Basketball Association Championship with the Capitals. He was a three-year captain at Hartford.
At Rhode Island, English was named twice to the All-Yankee Conference first team (1968-70), also serving as team captain over those two years. He was a one-year letterwinner in track at Rhode Island in 1969, and after his playing career, he continued his involvement with URI as an assistant coach, helping the Rams to the 1978 NCAA Tournament, after an ECAC North championship the same season, and NIT appearances in 1979, 1980 and 1981.
He was the Atlantic 10 Co-Coach of the Year in 1981, the Rhode Island Words Unlimited Coach of the Year in 1981, and in his time at URI, he served on the boards of CODAC, Rhode Island Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Rhode Island Special Olympics, and he was the URI Athletics Affirmative Action Officer.
As director of athletics at Park, the Pirates have captured 67 conference championships, and in each of his previous 22 seasons as athletics director, at least one Park program has represented the Pirates in NAIA postseason play. He has also watched 140 student-athletes earn All-America honors, and 301 student-athletes have been named Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes, the highest academic honor bestowed upon a student-athlete by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. In his tenure as AD, the Pirates have four NAIA men's volleyball tournament championships, six individual championships in track and field, and one NAIA women's volleyball national championship.
In his tenure as AD, the Pirates have hosted two NAIA women's soccer national championships (in Olathe, Kansas) and two NAIA Men's Volleyball National Invitational Tournaments at Breckon Sports Center in Parkville.
The 2015-16 Park University Department of Athletics posted a 3.125 GPA as a whole, and nine teams, a school record, were named NAIA Scholar Teams with a 3.0 team GPA or better in the 2015-16 academic year.
In 2014-15, the department scored 93 points on its Champions of Character scorecard and received the Buffalo Funds gold status for 2014-15.