Hello Tiger fans!
At the end of May, one of the fixtures in Clemson’s athletic department over the last 28 years, Robert Ricketts, will be retiring. Robert has dedicated most of his professional life to Clemson, and in the process has worn many different hats, first at the university and then within the athletic department. We are indebted to he and his wife, Kathey, for all they have done for Clemson Athletics. With that in mind, I asked Associate Sports Information Director Philip Sikes to sit down with Robert for a question and answer session to reflect on his experiences at Clemson.
Q: When did your affiliation begin with Clemson University and its athletic department?Ricketts: “I started out in the Edwards administration, and was hired by Melvin Barnett in the business and finance area in the 1975-76 fiscal year. The university was automating at that time, and I was in that lead group. I was also in the payroll and fringe benefits office for a while. I was part of the initial startup of the internal audit division at the university. It was a single-person operation before they went to a full-blown division, which I was a part of. Eventually, I was supervisor for that division. I was exposed to many different areas of the university. We did financial audits for anything the university did, quite frankly.
“I was on the business and finance side of the university for about nine and a half years. In 1985, I came to the athletic department as business manager. Part of my previous duties had been conducting financial audits for the department, so I was exposed to the business for a number of years.
“I also was fortunate to serve on the university’s recreational advisory committee with Banks McFadden. He was director of campus recreation at that time. Frank Johnstone Jervey and Frank Howard were also running around during that time, so I was able to spend time with them.
“In ’85, it was truly a situation where I combined my profession with my passion of athletics. When I was young, I actually rolled tickets and used to run out onto the field trying to get chinstraps and all that. I was lucky one time to get one from a place kicker. I had been exposed to athletics before I even came over to work with business operations.
“(Working in athletics) has been an absolutely joy for me. I’ve served four athletic directors – Bill McLellan, Bobby Robinson, Terry Don Phillips and now Dan Radakovich. I’ve worked with and known seven of the university presidents. Clemson is still small enough of a place that the president knows you.
“I’ve enjoyed working with the IPTAY Board, as well as the Board of Trustees. There are truly outstanding individuals on both of those boards.
“I always took the approach that today I needed to do something to help Clemson, or someone who was working at Clemson. I never looked at this like I was going to work each day. I have had a never-ending desire to serve this institution. That’s the philosophy I operated under every day. My wish is that young people can be as lucky as I was, in that they can get up in the morning to serve, instead of work. It makes a difference at the end of the day.
“All my years here kept me young at heart. It has been a blessing and an absolute joy for me. But I’m looking forward to the next phase in life; I hope I enjoy it as much as this one.”
Q: Does it mean even more to you considering your family ties to Clemson?Ricketts: “Clemson is such a wonderful place to raise a family. It exposes you to different things. Quite frankly, Clemson Athletics has allowed me to do things I never dreamed I would be able to do. I’m a lot like our student-athletes. I came in one way and will leave a different way. I’m more mature, have had some success, and feel good about my association with so many great people for so many years. My entire time, I had the privilege of continuing to expand my background and hopefully help in some small way, right up until the end. It’s getting to be the fourth quarter now, but I’m still going to play. I will miss the people, but I have a lot of other things I want to do.”
Q: With your involvement recently in so many capital projects, do you take a great deal of pride when you walk in a facility such as the WestZone?Ricketts: “It is so fulfilling. The most fulfilling part is that you’re doing something to help the student-athletes and coaches, by giving them the resources they need to continue to improve. At the same time, it’s important to tell Clemson’s rich tradition in the sport of football. Clemson has great tradition in many sports, of course. But to show the importance of athletics to this area has been truly rewarding for me.
“What I try to do is play on the motivation of the young, and the emotions of the more mature. If you figure out ways to reach both, it’s very important at Clemson. It’s important to not overlook how Clemson Athletics got to where it is today. I consider it almost an anomaly. I’m not sure how so much success occurred at such a small school in a small town in a historically rural area. It’s because of the people that were chosen to lead. People make the difference.”
Q: When are you officially set to retire?Ricketts: “I’m going to retire at the end of the month of May. I’ll be immediately leaving for a golf outing with my buddies to Hilton Head. A group of 12 of us go every year in late spring. We used to play 36 holes in a day, but it won’t be long before we only play nine or just leave the clubs at home.”
Q: What courses can we find you at after you retire?Ricketts: “I’m so involved in athletics, I don’t get to play much golf. I played a lot before I worked in athletics. You have more time in your other life to play. I’ve been fortunate to play in tournaments and on a few other occasions. I’ll typically play the Walker Course or Boscobel. Occasionally, I’ll play The Reserve or Cross Creek. I’m hoping to find a regular place as soon as I retire.”
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June 22, 2021