United States Sports Academy alumnus Dr. Neal Ring was hired in 2012 to reestablish a sports program at Bob Jones University after the school’s 79-year hiatus from intercollegiate athletics. In four years under Ring’s leadership, the Bob Jones University Bruins athletics department has grown to 12 sports.
Ring – the athletic director and men’s basketball coach at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C. – holds two degrees from the Academy: a Master of Sports Science in sports coaching (2005) and a Doctor of Education in sports management and sports leadership (2016). He credits his education from the Academy with playing an important role in his professional growth and career in athletics.
“I can honestly say that without my master’s and doctorate from the Academy I would not be in the position that I am in,” Ring said. “The theoretical and practical challenges that I faced as a student gave me a foundation from which to draw from when I began crafting the initial elements of our department. I had resources available to me that were very crucial as I considered hiring processes, mission and vision statements, policy and procedure manuals, and department structure, etc.
“I believe that components of each class I took and my professors who taught them can be seen somewhere within the footprint of our program. I like the focus of the Academy on sports and the real world experience that each professor has. I’m big on letting those who are professionals do their work; this is no different. Learning the sports industry from those with experience in the industry was an excellent decision for me.”
As the Bruins’ athletic director, Ring provides oversight for the athletic department, including hiring coaches and support staff. He said he is focused on the potential continued expansion of the athletic department and the management of a donor base to fund future development. He also coaches the men’s basketball team.
“I enjoy the personal interaction with the players as the men’s basketball coach and coaching gives me the opportunity to engage my competitive nature,” Ring said. “The best part of my position is the opportunities I have to go overseas and do coaching clinics. These allow me to integrate my faith and my profession and have a positive impact in needy areas of the world.”
After graduating from Northland International University in Dunbar, Wisc., in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in Bible and a coaching minor, Ring joined the Northland men’s basketball team as a volunteer assistant coach, a move which eventually led to his pursuit of a degree from the Academy. He said the Academy’s alumni network was really beneficial to him. Specifically, fellow Academy graduates Dr. Dennis Scott and John Thompson helped him along the way, as he served under both coaches at different institutions.
“I was a men’s basketball volunteer assistant coach at Northland International University with Academy grad Dr. Dennis Scott,” Ring said. “I attended the Academy in large part because of his influence. When I pursued my master’s degree at the Academy, I was able to do a mentorship as a graduate assistant with the North Carolina Wesleyan College (NCWC) men’s basketball program and followed up the next year at NCWC as a volunteer assistant for Academy grad John Thompson.
“Later I served as an assistant volleyball coach to my wife at Spring Hill College while I was a doctoral teaching assistant at the Academy. I worked in the grass roots basketball industry with a startup training company, On Court Player Development, before landing the job as head men’s basketball coach at NCAA D3 Maranatha Baptist University. After three years there, I moved to Bob Jones.”
Ring said the Academy’s distance learning option helped him continue to work in the field while pursuing both his master’s and doctoral degrees.
“One universal thing in the industry is that we are all extremely busy,” Ring said. “The Academy’s online model allowed me to get great experience while expanding my educational foundation. I believe it helped me to be a better researcher and impacted my dissertation project. The papers and projects that each online class required really helped to shape my final project and gave me the confidence that I could do it.”
Ring said he considers it a blessing to have the opportunity to establish an intercollegiate athletics program at an institution like Bob Jones.
“I can’t imagine a bigger accomplishment in my career than establishing an intercollegiate program,” he said. “This is one of those life time opportunities that as I review my experience, I can see how each stop along the way helped to prepare me for some aspect of what I do. I’m not sure I will ever run out of challenges or become bored with the next thing up in the program. It’s a great opportunity for my family so I feel truly blessed.”
The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission Sports University created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy, call (251) 626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu.