Billy McBride is the assistant athletic director of diversity and inclusion, the director of club sports and a senior coach from Syracuse, New York. McBride has been a coach at the college for 30 years, before which he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, played professional football in the Canadian Football League and worked at a school in New York City. During the pandemic, he has been learning how to play guitar.
Q: Where are you from?
A: I’m from Syracuse, New York. When I think of home, I think of my great-grandfather. He was interviewed at 117, and he remembered when a Black man didn’t own himself. I look at his plaque every morning when I leave home, and I think about where we are now in the country.
Q: What did you do before you came to Amherst?
A: I was the athletic director at the Allen-Stevenson school in New York City. I was the head of upper school, and I coached football, basketball, baseball, lacrosse and wrestling. My favorite was baseball because that was the first sport I was introduced to when I was little. I also played professional football for six to seven years.
Q: What are some of your responsibilities as an assistant athletic director of diversity and inclusion?
A: It encompasses a lot. I think the diversity and inclusion title has come about across the country because everyone understands how important diversity is on a college campus. That type of work — social welfare — has always been a part of the fabric of who I am, even before I came to Amherst, even before I was at the Allen-Stevenson school and even before I played pro-football. I have a saying for that — giving helps the receiver but most importantly it impacts the giver.
Q: Did you always know you wanted to be a college coach?
A: To be honest, no. When I retired from pro sports I always thought I didn’t want to have that burden of not giving someone the opportunity to grow because of my decisions.
Q: What is the most rewarding part about your job?
A: The fact that in my thirty years at Amherst I’ve met some of the most amazing young adults who have done wonderful things. I feel that I’m an extended family member to so many scholars who have impacted my life.
Q: How has the pandemic affected your job? Have there been any unexpected positives?
A: I’m fortunate enough that I’m able to be engaged on campus. We’ve had great zoom calls, don’t get me wrong, but I do miss that one-on-one, face-to-face conversation. However, under these conditions, I think we’re doing the best that we can, and that’s all you can do! On the other hand, I think the pandemic gives people time to reflect, to pause and take a step back to enjoy the whole picture. You can kind of lose sight of things when times are normal.
Q: Do you have any long-term goals for what you’d like to achieve at Amherst?
A: Amherst has helped my professional development like I never thought, and I think that’s because of what it represents in terms of liberal arts and really exploring and finding out your own personal uniqueness. I think that my experiences here coaching men and women athletes, being in a classroom and working with different departments around the college campus have given me a breath of fresh air.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: As of lately, I’ve been playing guitar. I started learning during the pandemic. I try to challenge myself to do things that make me feel uncomfortable, like reading things I don’t like or reading out loud when I watch foreign movies. It forces the brain to absorb and learn.
Q: Who is your biggest inspiration?
A: My grandmother. She brought me under her wing and gave me advice that I tell my daughter today — she would say ‘if they can get it, you can get it’. And that to me is open-ended. If you want to be educated, you have to work for it. She was always so humble, and she kept me grounded with love.
Q: With all that’s going on right now, do you have any tips for college students right now?
A: One thing I like to say in life is you can compromise on strategy but never on principle. That will lead you to love of self, and as you love yourself, it’s hard not to love others.