Bill Reagan has held just about every job an athletic department can offer in his nearly 30 years working in college sports. He is currently in charge of athletic advancement and external affairs, which means his main role is to help raise money for current athletes from former Irish athletes.
Bill Reagan came to Notre Dame in 2001 after 18 years of coaching Div. II football.
Reagan, who has several family times to the university, came to South Bend more than a decade ago as the Director of Football Operations for Bob Davie and later Tyrone Willingham. He spent most of professional career as a head coach at Div. II St. Joseph’s College, his alma mater, and an offensive coordinator at Ashland University, where he regularly squared off with Grand Valley State and its young coach Brian Kelly.
When he left the coaching world in 2003, Reagan started the Top Gun QB Academy for local high school students. He’s tutored several quarterbacks who have gone onto play in college, although none on the Div. I level yet.
Reagan sat down with Blue & Gold Illustrated this week to discuss his past and some of the fundraising implications of realignment in college football.
Blue & Gold Illustrated: Is it difficult to convince former athletes to give back to their sport?
Reagan: “There’s a common perception that athletes won’t give because they have a mentality that they spilled their blood for the university, but I have to say our guys and gals are pretty generous compared to other schools. That’s what I see anecdotally, I don’t have any hard statistics.”
Blue & Gold Illustrated: Would joining a conference negatively affect the donations from former football players?
Reagan: “It may. I think if we ever left to join a conference in football it may have an effect because that is kind of the last bastion of tradition here. People really hang on to that, but it’s hard to get inside the head of a donor. People will sometimes say things as an excuse for why they don’t want to give, but others have genuine concerns too.”
Blue & Gold Illustrated: Will a potential drop in donations get factored into the equation when deciding if it makes sense to join a conference?
Reagan: “I think it’s what is good for the university and not what’s good for fundraising. I don’t want to speak for [athletic director] Jack [Swarbrick] or anybody else, but there comes a time where you can’t be left out on the outside.”
Blue & Gold Illustrated: When you coached against Brian Kelly, who got the better of those matchups?
Reagan: “Let’s just say I’m glad Brian is on our side now. I was at Ashland in ‘97 and we won our conference, which Grand Valley State was a part of, and went to the NCAA playoffs, but we did not beat Grand Valley during the regular season. It was tough to beat Brian Kelly.”
Blue & Gold Illustrated: Since you coached against him, did anyone consult you when Kelly was up for the Notre Dame job?
Reagan: “No. Nobody knew until Jack came out from underneath wherever he was that Brian Kelly was the guy. …I was excited that we would have a guy I would know, and I thought Brian was really ready for this step. If he was coming from Grand Valley to here that wouldn’t be a good thing, but Grand Valley to Central Michigan to Cincinnati to here, that’s kind of been the recipe for other coaches that have been successful here.”
Blue & Gold Illustrated: Do you help kids with the recruiting process at your QB academy?
Reagan: “If they ask I will. I’m just trying to be an honest evaluator of their talent. …I went straight to our compliance office when I first had this idea and they said, ‘As long as you don’t bring anybody on campus, we’re fine.’ So, that’s something I continue to do.”
Blue & Gold Illustrated: Training camps, combines and 7-on-7 teams have multiplied quickly in recent years. Is that a good thing for young football players?
Reagan: “I think the opportunity to play more football is good. Anybody can get together and play basketball whenever they want. It’s so easy. Football you have to be more organized. When we grew up we did do a lot of organized football on our own Kids just don’t seem to take that anymore, and I think that’s because they’re led by their parents so much.
“The 7-on-7s give them an opportunity to hone their skills more. One of the problems is in different states it’s regulated different and they get away from their football coach, their high school coach. We’ll have to see how this materializes. It’s kind of like AAU basketball. I’m kind of just learning how it’s happening myself how it’s happening in other states.”
Blue & Gold Illustrated: The combination of AAU and recruiting has led to a lot of problems in basketball. Could combines and 7-on-7s be dangerous in those terms?
Reagan: “I suppose they could, they have a stronghold on kids. The kid doesn’t go out for track because he’s playing basketball year round. Many of us are totally for kids playing as many sports as they can and want to. We may have to have legislation in certain high school areas to get that accomplished.”