If Jacki Silar isn't altogether coherent, it's because she's a little bit jetlagged. She's just returned from nearly a week in Alaska, where she traveled with the volleyball team.
As the new Alaska postcard hanging from her bulletin board and the scattered tutoring sheets on her desk show, she's settling into her job as an assistant athletic director.
In the 19 years that Silar has worked at Duke, she has served as assistant women's basketball coach, head field hockey coach and senior women's administrator in addition to the assistant athletic director post, which she assumed in June.
The combination of basketball and field hockey is unusual in itself, but what is really odd about Silar's coaching jobs is that she did them simultaneously. She was hired at Duke as the assistant women's basketball coach in 1979 and took over as head field hockey coach the next year. Since the two seasons overlapped, she often ran into some tricky arrangements.
"I'd have to run from field hockey practice, change clothes and put my sneakers on, then go to basketball practice," she said.
The very fact that she was able to coach two sports shows the difference between women's collegiate athletics in the 1980s and today. The field hockey team has gone from having no assistant coaches to three, and until the 1982 season, Silar was the lone assistant basketball coach. In those days, about 25-50 people would show up for each game. Last season, the women's basketball team had three assistant coaches and drew thousands of fans for key games.
Although it was extremely rare to see someone coach two sports in the early 1980s, it would be pretty much unthinkable today.
"In 1998 it would be virtually impossible because the recruiting aspect of the sport has become so intense," Silar said. "It wasn't ideal back then, but you could survive. The game has evolved to a totally different level. I'm glad I was around at a time when I could do both."
Silar stopped coaching basketball after the 1992 season and coached just field hockey the following year. Bored with just field hockey, she asked then-athletic director Tom Butters what else she could do. Her inquiry to Butters coincided with an NCAA mandate for a senior women's administrator position, and Silar was given the job in addition to coaching hockey.
As the administrative job continued to evolve, she became unable to also coach and resigned as field hockey coach in 1996. While coaching field hockey, she led the team to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1992 and a No. 7 national ranking.
Although she gave up coaching, she took over advising for the female athletes in order to maintain ties to students.
"One thing I didn't want to lose was the contact with student athletes-that's what I love," Silar said.
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Her duties as senior women's administrator also include programming for all the women's sports, including budgets and schedules. She also tries to travel with each women's team once each season, hence the trip to Alaska, and with all women's teams during postseason play.
"I miss coaching the actual competition, but it's been really enjoyable to learn a lot about the many sports that we have," Silar said. "If every day I learn something, I know that I'm doing my job."
While traveling to Connecticut with one women's team, Silar checked out a UConn women's basketball game and saw a sellout crowd, a marker of how far the game has come and one of her goals at Duke.
"To watch it grow to this level is just amazing," she said. "To see UConn sell out every game-that's something."
After Joe Alleva became athletic director in the spring, she was named assistant athletic director, in addition to senior women's administrator.
"It's really just a title change," Silar said. "You can't do just one thing in this athletic department. Everybody wears two hats. It keeps us out of trouble."