When Earl Hilton looks at athletics and sports he sees a microcosm of life. He believes nearly every issue is represented in nearly every form in one way or another. The good, bad, hurt, pain, joy and laughter are all represented and those are the things he loves so much about his position as North Carolina A&T State University’s Director of Athletics.
“Sports is one of the last places on earth where the pain is real and the joy is real. In athletics when you lose it hurts. It’s real hurt; correspondingly when you push through adversity and work as a team for a common goal, it feels good to win,” said Hilton.
“When you watch young people experience and taste these things and go through the process it’s rewarding and heartbreaking because by definition everyone doesn’t win. There are lots of life lessons in athletics and no doubt it reflects life.”
Many of N.C. A&T’s teams are experiencing the joy of winning and rebuilding toward excellence, but Hilton is quick to point out that it shouldn’t be attributed to him.
But in fact it should be. He humbly takes no credit for the great things going on in the university’s athletic department, but truth be told, Hilton’s leadership, particularly his leadership style is part of the reason A&T sports teams are excelling and rebuilding toward athletic as well as academic preeminence.
“Just like there are different types of coaches, there are different types of ADs [athletic directors]. I’ve been called a coaches AD. I like working with the coaches and students,” said Hilton. “They are responsible for our winning teams. I’m very proud of them, but I’m not responsible for it. The coaches and students work very hard. For students it’s a full-time job in season, plus academics and of course life is happening to them, with them and around them. But I’m very happy to be a part of it.”
As athletic director, Hilton wears many hats. On any given day he’s meeting with coaches, student athletes, his finance team, compliance personnel, boosters and even some parents. It’s all an encompassing part of his position, but if asked where’s he’s most comfortable he’s quick to point out his soft spot.
He says of course there are many decisions to be made and different contracts to deal with, but says, “when you come to a game I’ll be on the field or floor. I don’t spend a lot of time in the box,” he said. “During the week if I can, I will go to different practices. I want to see students in their element and be comfortable. I try to go on bus trips with them. I want them to be comfortable.”
As much as Hilton loves what he does there’s one thing that trumps it all and that’s his family. The Texas native says his days begin and end with his family; and AD duties are sprinkled in between.
“Everything I do is about my family. An athletics director is not who I am; it’s what I do. I love it, it’s the best job in the world, but I’m a husband and a father and that’s what motivates me,” he said.