When Kim Abbott took over as USC Beaufort's director of athletics development nearly five years ago, she didn't know what to expect when building an athletics department from scratch.
She ought to have a better idea about what lies ahead this time around.
The woman who built the current incarnation of USCB's athletics program from the ground up said Monday she will leave at the end of the school year to take on a similar project at Columbia International University, a small Christian college in Columbia.
"This is closer to a personal decision than a professional decision," Abbott said, acknowledging the move might seem from the outside to be a step back. "The personal side comes from the fact that CIU is a Bible college, and there's definitely some spiritual and personal convictions that it's the right time for me."
Since taking over the department in August 2005, Abbott guided the rebirth of USCB's long-dormant athletics program, which includes seven teams -- men's and women's teams in golf, cross country and track, as well as a baseball team. USCB joined the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and returned to intercollegiate competition in 2007, and several teams have built a national profile in the short time since. The men's and women's golf teams are ranked among the top 25 in NAIA and runners from the cross country and track teams have qualified for the NAIA national championships each of the past two years.
Now, the Sand Sharks shift their focus to finding someone who can pick up where Abbott left off.
"We are looking for someone who can take us to the next level," USCB Chancellor Jane Upshaw said. "Obviously, Kim has done a wonderful job for us. When you hire good people, you run the risk that somebody else wants them. And in my opinion, we don't do our jobs well at USCB if we don't hire those people that are excellent in their jobs that somebody else may come along and pluck away. We'll be looking for somebody that someone else will want to hire sometime later."
Upshaw said the opening will be posted for a national search, and she will select a search committee to vet candidates before interviewing finalists. She plans to make a hire before July 1, which is the start of the school's fiscal year.
Both Abbott and Upshaw said one of their few regrets over the past five years is that the school does not yet field eight varsity teams, a requirement to earn full membership status in the Sun Conference, which USCB joined as an associate member in April 2008. Plans to launch softball, women's soccer and volleyball were delayed after state budget cuts affecting USCB were announced in December 2008.
Abbott said she is confident a softball coach will be in place in time to recruit his or her first class for the 2011-12 school year and begin play in 2012, with women's soccer and volleyball likely to follow within two years, though following through with those plans will fall to her successor.
The challenge for her replacement, Abbott said, will be managing a growing athletics department while still juggling the many jobs that come with the title of AD at a small school. At a home baseball game, Abbott often sells tickets, works the concessions stand and serves as de facto operations manager. Upshaw said she will look for the same resourcefulness in choosing the school's next AD.
Those qualities made Abbott a natural fit for the new position at Columbia International, which will field intercollegiate athletics for the first time in its 87-year history, according to Mike Blackwell, vice president for corporate communications and enrollment management.
The school plans to launch seven sports -- men's and women's basketball, soccer and track, as well as women's volleyball -- within the next two years, and compete in the National Christian College Athletic Association, Blackwell said. Abbott will be charged with raising money, hiring coaches and getting the program off the ground, which ought to sound like an awfully familiar job description.
"She knows how to line the field and run the concession stand," Blackwell said, "and build an intercollegiate athletics program in her spare time."
If her current employer's endorsement is any indication, Columbia International found the right person for the job.
"She has been as good in this situation as I expected her to be and better," Upshaw said. "I knew she would do a great job, and she's absolutely delivered on that. She's left us in a great place, because we have a wonderful foundation on which to build."
ABBOTT'S TIME AT USCB
A look at some of the important milestones for USC Beaufort's athletics department since Kim Abbott took over as director of athletics development nearly five years ago:
July 2005 -- USCB announces that Abbott will transfer from USC's Columbia campus, where she had served as associate athletics director since 2001, to become the new director of athletics development at USCB. Abbott takes over her new post a month later.
March 2007 -- USCB is granted provisional membership in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and announces plans to launch men's and women's golf and cross country teams the following fall. Abbott will coach the golf teams, while assistant athletics director Larry Kimball will coach the cross country teams.
July 2007 -- After asking for input from community members, USCB announces its new athletics teams will be called the "Sand Sharks" and will wear navy blue, sand and garnet as their official colors. Two days later, USCB introduces former major league outfielder Rick Sofield as its first baseball coach.
August 2007 -- Abbott reveals that plans to launch women's golf will be postponed for a year because she was unable to recruit enough players to fill out a team. Later in the month, the cross country teams officially mark USCB's return to athletic competition by running in the Gamecock Invitational at Columbia's Fort Jackson.
January 2008 -- After coaching the men's golf team during the fall semester, Abbott steps aside to focus on her duties as athletics director and hires Gavin Grenville-Wood as the school's first director of golf.
April 2008 -- USCB is accepted for associate membership in the Florida Sun Conference. To gain full membership, the Sand Sharks are required to field eight varsity sports; they enter with seven with plans to add two more on the horizon.
August 2008 -- USCB announces it will play its home baseball games at Hardeeville's Richard Gray Baseball Complex until it can build a field on its campus. Later in the month, visa issues force director of golf Gavin Grenville-Wood to leave the country, and Shane LeBaron is hired as his replacement.
December 2008 -- In response to state budget cuts affecting USCB, the school announces it has postponed the launch of its softball, women's soccer and volleyball programs. The school originally planned to launch one or more of the programs by the 2009-10 school year with the others to follow within two years.
February 2009 -- USCB's baseball team makes its debut, marking the first spectator sport at the school. The Sand Sharks complete their first season with a record of 33-21 and qualify for the six-team Sun Conference tournament.
March 2010 -- Abbott announces she will leave USCB to accept the same position at Columbia International University, which plans to launch its intercollegiate athletics program with seven new programs over the next two years. Chancellor Jane Upshaw says she wants to have Abbott's successor in place by July 1.