Wren Baker

About Wren Baker

Wren Baker was named Director of Athletics at Northwest Missouri State University in December 2010. Baker provides leadership to fifteen Northwest athletic programs. Prior to coming to Northwest, Baker was the first Athletic Director in Rogers State University history and led the development of one of Oklahoma's most successful collegiate athletic programs. Before entering administration Baker served as an assistant in the Oklahoma State University men’s basketball program 2001 to 2005. Baker received his bachelor's degree in health and physical education from Southeastern Oklahoma State University in 2001 before earning his masters degree in education leadership from Oklahoma State University in 2003.

Once a Bearcat, Always a Bearcat

We heard it when we came to Maryville for our interview. We heard it each time we visited campus before finally making the move to Missouri. We read it in congratulatory emails and texts. Without question, the Baker family was familiar with the phrase “Once a Bearcat, always a Bearcat” long before we actually moved to “The Ville.” 

It isn’t uncommon for a collegiate athletic program’s fans to say “once a _______, always a _______.” In preparing for this last blog, I Googled the phrase, trying to figure out where it originated. It apparently goes beyond sports. In my research, I found considerable biblical discussion on “once saved, always saved.” There was also some relationship websites with some lively discussion on “once a cheater, always a cheater.” I’ll leave that discussion alone! Ultimately my research couldn’t prove if Northwest was the first university to coin the phrase, but residents of “The Ville” don’t need evidence. In fact, you won’t convince anyone in Maryville that the saying didn’t originate with former Bearcat coach Ryland Milner. 

And this belief is exhibit ‘A’ on why Northwest is special. It is impossible to quantify the passion of a fan base. Does Nebraska, Alabama or Notre Dame have the most passionate football fans? I suspect that depends on if you are asking someone in Lincoln, Tuscaloosa or South Bend. Here is what I know, Bearcat fans are some of the most passionate I’ve experienced. Occasionally, I’ve tried to explain the passion to colleagues in athletic administration. The best way I can do that is simply to state facts. In a town of 12,000 and a county of only 23,000 we routinely put more than 10,000 in a football stadium and we will have crowds of more than 2,000 at basketball games. That’s a strong market share! We are one of a handful of D2 programs that don’t have to worry about avoiding scheduling games at the same time as D1 teams. I can’t think of one instance where I thought our crowd was affected by a game at Mizzou, Nebraska, Kansas or K-State. Honestly, I’d put the passion of Bearcat fans up against fans of any institution.

To Bearcat fans, there is nothing more big time than the young men and women clad in green and white. They arrive early (especially to tailgate) and stay late. They travel en masse. They live and die with every possession, drive, at-bat, etc. In what feels like a sea of corn fields, lies a University that has no equal in the hearts of our 70,000 alumni and friends. So there is a deep meaning when a Northwest fan says “Once a Bearcat, always a Bearcat.”

As my last day as an employee of Northwest nears, my family is thankful for our time here. Together, we have dealt with a lot and accomplished a lot during the past 26 months. Personally, Heather and I are thankful for the support system that exists in this community. It is a great place to live and raise a family. We are thankful for the athletics staff. Northwest has some of the best coaches and administrators in the country. We are thankful for the 400+ students-athletes who have taught me a great deal about excellence and perseverance. It is because of the tremendous group of coaches and student-athletes the future is brighter than ever for Northwest. We are thankful for each faculty and staff member, alumnus, community member and fan. You make Northwest what it is. Lastly, we are thankful for our time as Bearcats. Without it, we wouldn’t know the meaning of “Once a Bearcat, always a Bearcat!”

 

Remembering the Victims of Sandy Hook Elementary

I love the Christmas season.  I love everything about it.  I enjoy good food, catching up with friends and spending time with family.  I love giving gifts.  I start shopping months in advance.  Of course, I don’t finish that early.  No, I will usually finish up at the last minute like most Americans.  But I do start early.  Surely, I can get some credit for that.  I am especially looking forward to this Christmas.  My daughter is 17 months old and starting to figure out there is something fun in most of those boxes wrapped in paper.  I could watch her playing in the wrapping paper and throwing bows for hours.  Continue reading

The Joys of Fall

I love the fall season on college campuses.  There is such an energy and buzz.  It is especially noticeable in college athletics.  In the fall, everyone plans on competing for championships.  Each practice is spirited and competitive.  This fall has been a great one at Northwest.  Our soccer team is currently 7-3-2 (5-1-1 MIAA).  Women’s volleyball is 11-7 (5-1 MIAA) and football is 5-1 (4-1 MIAA).  Both of our tennis programs are having terrific fall seasons and women’s golf just completed its best fall season in program history.  Both of our cross country teams have done extremely well and are preparing to host the MIAA cross country meet right here in Maryville on Saturday, Oct. 20.  We would love to have you there! Click here for more info on the event. Continue reading

Remembering Coach Bostwick

It is unbelievable how fast a year goes by.  One year ago today, I woke up on a Sunday morning.  I had a few honey-dos to get finished.  My wife and I were expecting our first child in less than a month.  We had just moved into our home in Maryville and had been landscaping.  That morning I put on some grungy clothes and prepared to go purchase a pick-up bed full of mulch.  When I was gathering my things, the phone rang.  It was defensive coordinator and assistant football coach Rich Wright.  Before I could answer it, the call went to voicemail.  I grabbed my phone and wallet and headed for the truck.  When I got in the truck, I checked Rich’s voicemail.  He simply said “Call me as soon as you can.” Continue reading

Giving Back

Many people are aware of the incredible success that Bearcat athletic teams have experienced on the field and court over the years.  Sometimes we don’t do enough to recognize the many non-competition successes of our student-athletes, coaches and staff.  For instance, our student-athletes have consistently ranked in the top #2 of the MIAA in Academic Success Rate (ASR) as calculated by the NCAA.  We are amongst the nationally elite as well.    

Our coaches also emphasize community engagement initiatives.  A part of community engagement is giving back.  We believe that it is part of our responsibility to give back to our community and those in need.  Our student-athletes and coaches understand and embrace this responsibility.

With that in mind, our department embarked on some new endeavors this year.  In February, we hosted the Special Olympics district basketball tournament.  The Special Olympians enjoyed playing in collegiate facilities and the entire community joined in our efforts to make it a special event.  The group had such a good time they came back in April and we hosted their spring track and field games.  It was another very rewarding experience and one that we hope to continue. 

This Saturday many of our coaches, staff and student-athletes will join with others in the community to participate in and host the Nodaway County Relay for Life.  The event starts at 12:00 PM at Bearcat Stadium.  We are excited to partner with the American Cancer Society (ACS) and look forward to doing our part to find a cure for cancer.  The Relay for Life is the #1 fundraiser for ACS.  Each team agrees to have someone walking the track for a twelve hour period.  Cancer has probably affected everyone in some shape or form.  Hopefully, together we can find a cure for this terrible disease. 

For more information on the Nodaway County Relay for Life visit http://relay.acsevents.org/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFLFY11National?sid=128433&type=fr_informational&pg=informational&fr_id=39996

To donate to our athletic department team “Team Bearcats” visit this link http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR?team_id=1189191&pg=team&fr_id=39996

You are also welcome to come out and visit with our team.  In closing, these are just a few examples of how Bearcat athletics is affecting our community.  Let me also take the opportunity to thank all of you who support our student-athletes, coaches and Northwest.  Northwest is a special place and this is a special community.

The Importance of Mentors

At some point in our lives, we all benefit from mentorship.  Mentors come in all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds.  For most of us, our first mentors were our parents.  As we progressed through life, mentors probably took the shape of teachers, coaches, pastors, community leaders, counselors and friends.  Last week Northwest held its commencement ceremonies.  I’m guessing that most, if not all, of the 700+ students that received their diplomas last Saturday could classify a professor, staff or community member in the category of someone who helped them on their journey to a degree.  I was actually able to read of several such relationships via our graduates’ comments on Facebook and Twitter.  The professors and instructors at Northwest do a tremendous job of mentoring their students throughout the college experience and well into their professional lives. Continue reading

Sometimes life doesn’t go according to our plans

I’m a planner.  At times, I probably plan to a fault.  Early on in our marriage, I usually ruined our vacations because I was so fixated on staying on schedule.  The schedule that I had created and had no one to answer to if we didn’t follow it.  It would greatly frustrate my wife, Heather, who is more of an easy-going, rest-and-relax kind of vacationer.  I have good intentions.  I want us to see all the landmarks and experience as much of the culture and traditions of a new place as possible.  But sometimes, I get so caught up in my schedule that we don’t relax and enjoy each other and our time together.  Continue reading

The Spring Time

Let me start by apologizing for the delay in blogs.  Spring is a crazy, busy time of year in college athletics.  Currently, we have six sports playing on campus.  It was eight until the basketball season ended.  It is the most fun and action-filled time of the year, but it is overwhelming at times.  Continue reading

Heroes

Heroes.  We all have them.  Some people’s heroes are athletes, some government and world leaders.  Others choose members of the military who defend our freedom.  Some people’s heroes may be their parents or kids.  I probably have heroes in all of those categories.  For instance, I’ve always considered my grandparents as heroes.  My ‘granny’ is just about perfect in my eyes.  Always has been.  It would be impossible for me to go into all the reasons I consider her to be a hero but suffice to say, I would not be where I am today without my grandmother.  She has been a role model on how to live and is the most giving person I’ve ever known.  I take great inspiration from her. Continue reading

Bucket Lists

The term bucket list first came to my attention after the 2007 movie “The Bucket List” was released.  Perhaps it existed before, but I hadn’t heard the expression.  In the dictionary, bucket list is defined as “a list of things to do before you die.”  I’ve thought several times about putting such a list together but always end up thinking I’ll do it when I have more time.  I’m really not sure when that will be. Continue reading