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KIRTLAND – Kirtland Central will look for its third athletic director since 2016, after Keith Neil stepped down from the position after one season.

“It’s tough to leave Kirtland. Just over the course of this year, collectively, we’ve accomplished a lot. The coaching staff all the way around and the different programs, it’s a great group of people to have worked with. They made the A.D. job very, very easy,” Neil said today. “Being kind of an outsider, they took me in and really made it an enjoyable, worthwhile experience.”

Neil, who resides in Farmington, said he will start his new job as Navajo Prep’s Dean of Instruction on Monday, which he said is essentially a principal job.

“It’s tough to move on, but it’s an opportunity head toward what my ultimate goal’s been all along,” Neil said. “I figured it would take quite a few years before I got an administrative job in that capacity, but it became available.”

Neil was KC’s dean of students and activities director during the 2016-2017 school year prior to taking charge of the Broncos’ athletics staff.

Looking back, Neil said he was especially encouraged by how many Kirtland athletes made All-Academic honors to go with their athletic successes.

Neil said running an athletic department helped him learn how to organize a staff and manage relationships effectively, as well as how to convey a set vision in a “high-profile” professional setting.

Although Neil is unsure whether he will ponder any future A.D. opportunities, he remains involved with the local sports scene. This summer, for example, he is helping Vertical radio as a Farmington Frackers play-by-play commentator.

Even as he transitions to next his occupation, Neil hopes his successor will bring continuity to Kirtland.

“That’s what made (leaving) a tough decision, knowing there hasn’t been the continuity for the coaches, the student-athletes and the community. (It) weighed really heavy on my mind, but I hope that what we’ve done has left a great structure for the next athletic director to come in,” Neil said. “You don’t have to try to persuade people to come out and support their teams. We have a passionate fan base out here.”

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 or via email at mhollinshead@daily-times.com.

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