Jeff Benson drives around Gouin Complex in Paris near the end of his tenure as the athletic director at Oxford Hills in May 2017. Benson is retiring from Edward Little High School one year after returning to the school. (Sun Journal file photo)
Edward Little High School will be welcoming in its third athletic director in three years in the fall, but the Red Eddies teams will stay chugging along as they have throughout all the transition.
Jeff Benson, who last year took over for longtime athletic director Dan Deshaies, has announced his retirement, and the plan is already in place for EL assistant principal Todd Sampson to take over the role. Sampson’s hiring as the new athletic director is expected to be made official at the beginning of July.
“It’s been a while in the making,” Benson said. “I’ve been debating it, and now with a new granddaughter that’s seven-and-a-half, almost eight months, it’s time.”
Benson previously served as the AD at Edward Little for several years before leaving for Oxford Hills in 2003 and being replaced by Deshaies.
Benson called Sampson “a wonderful choice” to be his replacement, and said he suggested Sampson to Auburn Schools superintendent Katy Grondin.
“He knows the conference, which I think is just huge. So it won’t be small baby steps for him, it will be, ‘Nope, I know what this process is. I can do this,'” Benson said. “It will be a really easy transition, no question. Much like my transition was from when Danny left to me. Same conference, know everybody, bingo, off you go.”
Benson said he got an “inkling” that it was time to retire when on the same day he had to oversee the EL unified basketball team’s regional final game and the first day of pitchers and catchers for baseball and softball.
“I mean, it’s a great thing that they overlapped, and wonderful for our unified kids to go that far, but I’m going, ‘Wow,’ there was just no break. None,” Benson said. “So that was kind of like, ‘I got to really start re-thinking this.”
Benson, who called it a positive that EL had a successful sports year overall in his one year back, will move on to the private sector part-time, as well as play “a lot of golf.”
Sampson, meanwhile, will jump right in and try to pick up where Benson left off.
“Basically, it’s in such great shape there’s not going to be a lot of work I need to do,” Sampson said. “I’m just going to have to be able to support those people and continue to help them do the great things for kids.”
Sampson brings plenty of experience as an athletic director to his new gig. He was previously the AD at Mt. Ararat in Topsham before coming to EL, and he also made stops in Westbrook and at Lake Region schools. He is an Edward Little graduate and previously was a physical education teacher at the school.
He said he wanted to see if he had an interest in being a principal at some point, which brought him to EL in the first place, but “quickly discovered … that I love high school athletics.”
Sampson takes on his new role already having relationships with his coaches — many of whom he first got to know as AD at Mt. Ararat — as well as many of the student-athletes.
Besides building on the success that EL teams have experienced in recent years, Sampson’s main goals as AD are to work with architects for the new high school and others involved to address a “facilities need within the next few years” as well as continue to promote sportsmanship.
“Our kids handle themselves very, very well, and I just want to be able to promote that, either with the MPA or through the KVAC, and just let people know we’ve got great kids, and sportsmanship is going to be a huge priority for me,” Sampson said.
Being the AD at his alma mater means “probably more than you know” to Sampson, who “couldn’t be any more happy” to get the job.
Besides the obvious factors, another thing that Sampson said attracted him to the job is the the Edward Little Grandstand Club, under the direction of Scott Whalen.
“The boosters at Edward Little are by far the best I’ve seen,” Sampson said. “One of the huge, attractive pieces to coming back.”
While the hiring hasn’t been made official, he said other ADs have “caught wind” and reached to Sampson with words of support.
“It’s great to have him back as an AD. He is amazing to work with,” Lewiston athletic director Jason Fuller said. “It’s a win for EL and a win for the KVAC.”