ALMA – The Alma School District voted Thursday night to separate its assistant superintendent and athletics director positions into two jobs, hiring longtime Fort Smith School District employee Travis Biggs to fill the assistant superintendent role and current Airedale football coach Doug Loughridge as the athletics director.

The move came following the surprise retirement of Dr. Mike McSpadden, who served in both capacities with the district.

McSpadden announced his retirement in May after 40 years with the district.

“That position of assistant superintendent has been coupled with the position of athletics director for a number of years and quite honestly we’ve outgrown that,” Alma Superintendent Dr. David Woolly said during Thursday night’s school board meeting. “As we’ve grown in size, in complexity and in programs, in the number of our student-athletes and coaches, it becomes difficult for one person to do that job. It’s become one person doing two full-time jobs.”

Biggs, who has coached at Fort Smith Southside as well as Ramsey and Chaffin Junior Highs, was most recently employed as that district’s Supervisor of Maintenance and Construction.

“He brings to Alma everything we are and everything we believe,” said Woolly. “He’s a dedicated school person and an outstanding leader with a great background of administrative experience.”

Biggs, who graduated from Northside High School and was drafted to play professional baseball for the Houston Astros, said he loves the passion that the Alma School District provides.

“That’s what I need,” he said. “I need a place that has a passion for what they do on an everyday basis. And when you’re around good people that allow you to be you, and see strengths and weaknesses, that’s what it’s all about. We all can’t be robots. You’ve got to respect all because we’re all in it for the same reason. And if you’re all in it for the same reason, and the students are the reason, then you’re fine.”

Woolly, noting it would be “impossible” to hire a football coach at this time of year, said he and Biggs would be handling the duties of the athletics director until Loughridge and the Airedales had completed their upcoming football season.

“What we’ve talked about is that (Loughridge) will continue to be the football coach for this season and devote 100 percent of his time and energy to us winning a state championship,” Woolly said. “He’s very enthusiastic about that and he will concentrate all his time and energy on that until the football season ends. At that time he will shift his attention to the entire athletic program.”

Biggs said he has no problem wearing the two hats while Loughridge mans the sidelines.

“I know a lot of the coaches – coaching at Southside, Ramsey and Chaffin we always coached against Alma – and I’ve always had a good respect for them and a good mutual relationship with them. Athletics has always been a part of my life, so that won’t be an issue. I’m looking forward to that.

“And after Doug takes over I’m looking forward to remaining a part of that and helping him in any way we can,” he continued. “Alma has a rich tradition of athletics and we need to build on that, too.”

Biggs said Alma’s tradition – both on and off the field – is something that caught his eye a long time ago.

“The tradition that Alma has is wonderful,” he said. “It’s something we’ve always seen from the outside looking in. But on the flip side is the potential to take it to the next level. This is a great place and a tremendous opportunity that I’m very thankful to have.”

He added, “It’s a wonderful opportunity and I promise the community of Alma that I’ll work hard for them and that we’ll do it with passion and integrity and character, and if you do that the people will see that you truly mean what you say. But I’ve got to prove that. I can’t just say it, I’ve got to earn it.”

Brian Fry’s hiring was also approved by the board Thursday night. Fry, a native of Van Buren and former Northside baseball coach, was hired to coach baseball and teach math at Alma.

“Brian played (legion baseball) for Crawford County Paper Clip when I played for Fort Smith Coca Cola, so we actually played against each other,” said Biggs. “As Mr. Woolly said earlier, Brian’s a great teacher, not just as a math teacher but he’s a great teacher on the ball field, too. And he’s a good guy. He’s a great hire for Alma.”