Ask the AD - Michael Duffy, Howard High School

This summer, CSZ will be doing a segment on the WICKipedia entitled "Ask the AD". In this feature, we'll be conducting Q&A's with various athletic directors around Maryland to learn more about how different high schools run their athletic programs, and what to expect from them in the future.

Today we're featuring Michael Duffy from Howard High School in Howard County! During our conversation, Michael talked to us about the football team making the state finals for the first time in 40 years, an initiative Howard uses to promote student leadership and an app the school has started used to enhance fans' enjoyment of games.


County Sports Zone:How did you become athletic director at Howard? How did your appointment come about?

Michael Duffy:I was the athletic director, special education teacher and wrestling coach at Mt. Hebron when our position became a full-time administrative one in Howard County. I applied and through the process, I was appointed to become the Athletics and Activities Manager at Howard in July, 2006.

CSZ:How has the job changed since you started? How has it stayed the same?

MD:I often wonder how much is has changed, and how much I have changed. The position has definitely evolved into a 24/7 type job which can be overwhelming if an athletic director does not set limits. The influence of year round sports and the expectations that coaches do not get off time has made every position within athletics different. We have all had to adjust.

CSZ:How would you rate this past year for Howard Athletics? Were there a couple highlights that stand out?

MD:This was a great year for our program. We are continuing to make strides within each of our teams. Wins and losses are good, but our coaches are committed to helping our students grow and become better people. Having the football team make its first state finals appearance in 40 years was exciting, but it was also exciting and meaningful for the students in the stands to be a part of it. Our athletic program can make a difference beyond the field and we are fortunate to have coaches who recognize the impact they have on our students.

Another highlight was that we partnered with a company called SuperfanU to develop an engagement application for fans at events. They would use their phones to "check in" to events (athletics and activities) and earn points. The points would then accumulate and students could earn rewards (concession stand vouchers, water bottles, shirts, hats, etc.). It helped to make our fan experience different from the norm.

CSZ:What're a couple things you've accomplished while Howard athletic director that you are most proud of?

MD:After my first year at Howard, we instituted a Captains' Clinic for students interested in becoming varsity team captains. It is a requirement and we offer it three times per year. It has been part of an ongoing school-wide initiative to build the leadership capacity of our students. We haev also built a coaching staff that views our athletics program as a team rather than a bunch of teams. There is the understanding that we are all moving towards the same goal, and have worked to eliminate everyone staking out his or her own little fiefdom.

CSZ:What do you enjoy most about your job?

MD:I know this may sound counter intuitive, but I like the constant change and lack of consistency. While we have a routine, things can change at a moment's notice. I enjoy that no two days are the same. I also really enjoy the interactions I get to have with our students. We have a great group of kids (of course I think just about every one of my colleagues will say the same), but Howard is home and the students are the focus of what we do.

CSZ:You've had plenty of teams make deep postseason runs during your time at Howard. When you have a team making a deep playoff run and going to states, what is the atmosphere like around the school? How does the athletic department try to enhance the atmosphere?

MD:When our teams make deep runs, the school does rally around them. There is an electricity throughout the building. We typically purchase additional tickets from the MPSSAA that we can distribute through a lottery for our students to attend. Our fans, especially our student section, are great and we want them to be able to show that spirit.

CSZ:Howard has the biggest student population in Howard County. How does that make the job of being athletic director at Howard unique or different from other schools in your county?

MD:I do not know that it makes a huge difference beyond lack of seating at home football games. We all deal with the same types of problems and fortunately we have a close group that we can bounce our ideas off of each other.

CSZ:Is there anything exciting or new we should be on the look out for from Howard's athletic department?

MD:I am hopeful that we can continue to build upon the successes we have had. I am excited to see what our student section will do this year. They have come on the last few years and developed a positive sportsmanship atmosphere at our games. They continue to impress me and I expect this year will be even better.

July 13th, 2016By: Wick Eisenberg

County Sports Zone provides the schedules, scores and standings for 208 public high schools across Maryland, Pennsylvania and Illinois.
We post the score of every game - varsity, junior varsity, freshman - by 11 o’clock every night.