Nelson Bobb opens up on personal life


Nelson Bobb talks at the press conference announcing him being named the interim director of athletics on September 6, 2017 on the Guilford College campus. //Photo courtesy Guilford Athletics/

This September, the Guilford College Athletic Department introduced Nelson Bobb as the interim director of athletics, a revered name in the community thanks to his record 26-year Hall of Fame-worthy career as the athletic director at the neighboring University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The Guilfordian sat down with Bobb to learn more about the personal life of this new face on campus.

“I was very impressed with the President (Jane) Fernandes and her all around vision for Guilford,” said Bobb. “I also was impressed with the physical presence of the school.”

Bobb had a full scholarship for football at Kent State University in his native state of Ohio and was academic and performance All-Mid-American Conference football selection for the Golden Flashes. He graduated in 1970 and earned his master’s degree at the same institution in 1972.

Soon after, he received an opportunity to coach and teach at Cornell University, serving as an assistant football coach and assistant athletic director. Bobb leaned more towards the administrative side of the sports department over coaching. Communicating with the students is a strong value for the athletic director.

“The best part (of athletic administration) is definitely interacting with the kids,” said Bobb. “(However), the worst (part) is the parents.”

When first getting into administration at Cornell, Bobb saw struggles with missed opportunities. He was not prepared to ask a donor for a $1 million gift to Cornell, so he failed and did not get the gift. He learned to always prepare himself for the task at hand.

“Failure is a part of learning,” said Bobb.

At UNCG, Bobb oversaw the construction or renovation of all the institution’s athletics venues. The UNCG Soccer Stadium opened in 1991 and was converted into a 10,000-seat venue that hosted the NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Final Four in 1997 and 1998.

Baseball and softball stadiums were built on campus. The university also served as a training site for Olympic teams prior to the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.

Bobb transformed the college from a Division III school to a Division I school in five years, the shortest for any college.

His accomplishments include being inducted into UNCG’s Hall of Fame in 1998 and the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Hall in 2012. However, Bobb holds some of his other accomplishments closer.

“One of the things I’m most proud of is the ring I wear,” said Bobb. “I was inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Hall. I also received NACDA’s 2016 Gary Cunningham Lifetime Achievement Award which was big for me because it came from my peers.”

Outside of sports, Bobb has an appreciation for art and literature, suitable to the liberal arts institution of Guilford College where he is now a leader.

“If I wasn’t in athletics, I would be a musical Broadway performer,” said Bobb.

His favorite book is “The Shack” by William P. Young for its focus on faith. Faith and religion are also key factors in Bobb’s daily life. He begins and ends each day with prayer. Bobb is someone who is always thankful for the day, and he reflects on each day and where he can improve.

“No matter how grey the sky is, the sun is above,” said Bobb.

The last book Bobb read was “Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life” by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. The 1998 novel uses allegorical mice to represent how people in the business world should cope with the ever-changing world around them. Bobb, during a staff meeting, handed out copies to each member in the athletic department at Guilford.

His advice to students is to develop good relationships with your professors. With the introduction of Bobb to oversee the Quakers’ athletic activities, the College could see notable improvements with his insight.