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Joe Danahey Receives CoSIDA 25-Year Award
Joe Danahey (center) with some of Concordia's graduating student-athletes at the school's 2018 commencement exercises.
Joe Danahey (center) with some of Concordia's graduating student-athletes at the school's 2018 commencement exercises.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018
by Blake Timm, GNAC Assistant Commissioner

A quick scan of Joe Danahey’s social media feeds easily reveals what is important to him.

On one particular day in May, the first photo on his Facebook page is of Joe with his late mother, sitting on his back patio while talking and enjoying the Bay Area weather. Not much further down is a group shot with him and a number of Great Northwest Athletic Conference colleagues following the first day of the conference softball championship.

Then there are the student-athlete posts. Quite a few of them. There are the photos of Danahey with a number of his graduating student-athletes and number that others have posted and taken the time to tag him in. And after less than two years at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon, it is amazing how many of those posts there are.

The relationships that he has developed with colleagues and student-athletes alike are what have kept Danahey in the sports information business for a quarter century. His work, and those relationships, will be celebrated when Danahey receives his 25-Year Award from the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) on June 30 in National Harbor, Maryland.

When it comes to those student-athlete relationships, Danahey makes it clear what those relationships mean to him. “On that first day, I tell them who I am and that if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have a job,” Danahey said. “I’m here for them and I want them to tell me what is going on. If they ever need anything, they can always come and see me.”

Danahey counts a number of those former student-athletes among his closest friends. He still keeps in touch with his first student worker at his first job, Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana. Another former athlete came out and visited last summer for a week in the Pacific Northwest.

The relationships are fruitful for a guy who, like many who have gone into the sports information business, knew nothing about the profession before becoming part of it. After graduating from Rockford College with a degree in child development in 1993, Danahey had no idea what he would do next. The only thing that was certain was that he couldn’t go home again.

“When I graduated, my mom and dad told me that they were moving into a retirement community where people 55 and younger couldn’t stay for more than two weeks at a time,” Danahey recalled. “At the time, the guy who was the assistant coach of our basketball team in high school became the head coach at St. Joseph’s. He said, ‘Joe, why don’t you apply for the assistant SID job?’”

He did and the rest is history. No more than a year went by before Danahey was promoted to head sports information director, a position he held until becoming the SID at San Francisco State in 2002. Danahey spent 14 years in the Bay Area until making the move to Concordia in December 2016.

Every stop has provided its fair share of top highlights. All of those highlights come back to those all-important relationships.

“When I was at San Francisco State, my third year there, we made the conference basketball tournament and we were the No. 6 seed. We weren’t supposed to do that well,” Danahey said. “We won our first game at Cal State LA and I remember Alex Thomas, our starting point guard, coming over and picking me up. It was quite the moment.”

There was also a Division II baseball championship finals game for St. Joseph’s and a Division II National Championship run for San Francisco State’s softball team, both of which have links to some special relationships.

That feeling carries over to his colleagues in the athletics communication business, which he sees as a second family. “I think people know Joe Danahey know that I am a family type of person. In every conference I have been involved with, people have been there for me,” he said.

That SID family perhaps made the biggest difference when Danahey was at San Francisco State. In a cruel twist of fate, the same parents that said Joe couldn’t go home after graduation came home to Joe not long after the made the move West. He juggled coordinating the Gators’ media relations with being caretaker for his parents. Danahey’s mother passed away from a bout with dementia in 2014 with his dad passing in 2015 from heart failure.

And when Danahey was at his lowest, his SID family was in its finest hour.

“I was going through some hard personal times in my life four or five years ago,” Danahey said. “I called Tyler Lobe (former Sonoma State SID) right away and he helped me get through what I was dealing with him. I was ticked off at him at the time, but he sent an email out to some of my closest friends and colleagues and I got some really nice notes back. It made a difference.”

When asked about what has changed the most in his 25 years, Danahey is quick to point at social media. The need to have results now, to have video and highlights, has become the most time-consuming part of the business, he said. At the same time, however, he knows that both are what the student-athletes and parents respond to the best.

And in the end, it helps to continue to build those relationships he cherishes so much. “With social media, the student-athletes see what I do and they know I am out there for them,” Danahey said.

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