Familiar face Niebuhr selected to fill PBL's AD role

Familiar face Niebuhr selected to fill PBL's AD role

PAXTON — Students at Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School probably best know Brock Niebuhr as a physical education teacher, or perhaps as an assistant football coach or volunteer baseball coach for PBL's varsity squads.

Up in Buckley, the locals probably know the 32-year-old Niebuhr as manager of the Eastern Illinois Baseball League's best team, the Buckley Dutchmasters. He also occasionally fills in as a left-handed pitcher, claiming Most Outstanding Pitcher honors in the E.I. League twice in recent years.

And none of that is expected to change come this summer, if Niebuhr has any say in it.

The only change coming, for sure, is that Niebuhr will be adding yet one more role to his already-busy schedule.

The Paxton-Buckley-Loda school board voted unanimously to hire Niebuhr as athletic director at PBL High School during a special board meeting on April 26. Effective July 1, Niebuhr will replace longtime AD John Overstreet, who is retiring after 16 years on the job.

Niebuhr admitted last week that he still needs to learn everything that goes into his new job — and Overstreet will be spending the next couple of months giving him guidance. But at least at this point, Niebuhr still plans to continue to teach P.E. at PBL, coach at PBL and manage the E.I. League-champion Dutchmasters after he assumes the role of AD.

"I'll still teach P.E. part of the day, and then I'll have athletic director periods a couple of hours of the day, as well, so it will be split up a little bit," Niebuhr said. "And the plan is to continue coaching as much as I can. It's a part (of my life) that I still enjoy, so as long as everybody will allow me to continue to do so, I will continue to coach what I can.

"And I'll definitely still be around (the E.I. League) — managing, coaching third base. We're about three weeks away from (the start of the E.I. season) right now."

Niebuhr was one of three candidates for the athletic director's job. All three currently work in the PBL school district, Superintendent Cliff McClure said.

McClure said Niebuhr stood out amongst the others because of his "philosophical beliefs," which "matched what the interview committee was looking for."

"His philosophical beliefs on high school athletics just stood out in the interview process," said McClure, who interviewed Niebuhr for about an hour on April 25 with fellow interview committee members Travis Duley, PBL High School's principal; Kelli Vaughn, PBL Junior High School's athletic director; and Shawn Young, a PBL school board member.

A native of Crescent City, Niebuhr graduated from Iroquois West High School in 2003, then earned an associate's degree at Kankakee Community College, where he pitched for the college's baseball team before an injury derailed his collegiate baseball career. He then transferred to Illinois State University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in physical education.

His first teaching job out of college was at Oakland High School, where he taught P.E. and driver's education from 2009 to 2011. While there, he also served as an assistant football and basketball coach. He then landed at PBL in 2011, after being hired as a P.E. teacher at the high school.

When Overstreet made his intentions known that he would be retiring as athletic director — a job he has held since 2001 — Niebuhr strongly considered applying, and he eventually "decided to throw (his) name in the hat."

"It was a position I've always had a little bit of interest in," Niebuhr said. "At the same time, I know it's a lot of work. I can only imagine the amount of time that John's actually put into it."

Niebuhr said the job was appealing to him because it allows him to serve in a leadership role.

"I think I can follow through on the stuff that John has done over the last several years and hopefully try to improve on those things," Niebuhr said. "I really enjoy working at PBL; it's a great school district, and this is an opportunity for me to kind of work my way up the ladder a little bit in being in a little more of a leadership role, so I'm excited about that part of it."

Niebuhr said Overstreet will be guiding him for the next couple of months before Niebuhr officially takes over as AD.

"John has been great," Niebuhr said. "He's done such a great job here. The story should be about him and what he's done in the time he's been here.

"But I'm just trying to learn from him as much as I can as quickly as I can before he retires. I'll be picking his brain on some things, trying to understand what needs to be done and when it needs to be done."

The AD's job involves overseeing the entire PBL High School athletic department. And that includes such things as the scheduling of athletic events, making sure officials are lined up for events, making sure buses are scheduled for road games and overseeing the athletic department's budget and inventories.

"I think it's going to be a lot (of work)," Niebuhr said. "At times I'll look at it and it's a little overwhelming, but at the same time it's exciting."

Given the current financial situation at PBL and other public schools in Illinois, Niebuhr knows that budgeting for athletic programs, in particular, will be a challenge.

Niebuhr said he will "work on trying to save money in different areas" as a way to help the situation.

"With budget constraints, it's not just us, it's everybody (dealing with them)," Niebuhr said, "so we're going to try to work together and see what we can do to save some money here and there, but at the same time try to put the best product out there that we possibly can."