MARQUETTE - David Diles, the director of athletics and chair of the Department of Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, has always been intrigued by Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
His wife, Suzanne, grew up in Iron Mountain and has family throughout the U.P., including Marquette.
"We have a deep affection for the U.P.," said Diles, who is a finalist for the athletic director position at Northern Michigan University. "It's a good connection in terms of our personal values and the things we enjoy in life."
But that's not the big reason Diles is intrigued by the U.P. The interest in the area comes from his father's flirtation with Marquette in the 1950s.
Diles father is exactly who he is named after, Hall of Fame broadcaster David Diles, who passed away in December of 2009.
"My father, back in the late 1950s, while working as a sports editor for the Associated Press, considered a newspaper opportunity in Marquette," Diles wrote in an early email correspondence with The Mining Journal last week. "I assume it was The Mining Journal; however, it may be the case that another paper existed at that time as well. He always spoke with affection about that professional opportunity."
The elder David Diles was a writer for 12 years, including for the AP in Detroit. He went on to work in television for WXYZ-TV in the Motor City followed by a 21-year career with ABC, hosting and appearing on the "Wide World of Sports," the Olympics, NASCAR and Indy 500, to name a few. He hosted College Football Scoreboard, The Race for No. 1 and Big Ten Today, while also doing play-by-play for the L.A. Clippers, Lions, Pistons and his alma mater, Ohio University.
"My father was my best friend," the younger Diles said. "I learned so much from him. I think I learned as I went along and I don't think I realized what I was learning those early years.
"What I learned most from him is to treat people with respect. It's the golden rule. You treat people as you'd like to be treated yourself.
"Following him throughout his career, literally standing outside the Detroit Red Wings dressing room when he was interviewing people, I saw how much better it was when you treated people with respect and that you listen well and that you try to be fair with people."
Diles also followed his father to an Olympic Games, but one of the more valuable experiences was a meeting with the owners of the Detroit Lions.
It was the interactions between the Ford Family and his father that taught Diles a lesson in corporate sponsorships and how both sides need to work together to accomplish a common goal.
"Things have to work from a business model. It's been foundational for how I approach corporate sponsorships," Diles said. "I don't view corporate sponsorships as a gift. I want to be a good listener. I want to know what it will take for someone to get the benefit from their investment in our department where our program through a sponsorship so it works from a business standpoint.
"I don't want them to consider that a gift because we need them to be gifting through the annual fund and other things so there's duplicity of my interests. I don't want anybody to think of a corporate sponsorship as a gift. I want it to work from a business standpoint."
Diles said he used his father as a sounding board when he became athletic director at St. Bonaventure University, which had claimed financial exigency at the time of his hire.
The Bonnies, like the Wildcats, are located in a rural town. The elder David Diles suggested his son take a visit to alumni relations to find out where St. Bonaventure alumni resided outside of the university's home in Olean, N.Y.
The push from his father resulted in the younger Diles hitting the road to Buffalo, Rochester, Binghamton and Jamestown.
"We did intentional programming to take our school to them as opposed as asking them to come to us," Diles said. "We did it because graduates and business leaders thought of coming to Olean just not doable because of their schedule. We thought, we need to take our programs there and so we did. We found different techniques and strategies and events to put ourselves in their company and I think that really helped us get a foothold."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.