‘It’s a big deal what we do’: Meet The Charlotte Observer’s prep athletic director of the year

Marvin Ridge High athletic director Brian Knab said he spends more time on campus than his wife would like.

But he said being a successful athletic director at a highly successful school like Marvin Ridge takes a lot of time.

“You’ve got to be organized,” said Knab, 45, “and you’ve got to be able to multi-task. We are all trying to create more time so you can manage all of it, as well as be visible to the athletes and parents and coaches as much as you can. It’s a good problem to have.”

This season, sports team at Marvin Ridge won 11 conference, three regional and three state championships. Knab is The Observer’s high school athletic director of the year.

This is the third year the media company has handed out the award, selecting Knab as the best in its coverage area.

Knab grew up in Ohio and played three sports in high school, including making the baseball state championship round. Knab later played college baseball at NCAA Division III Otterbein University, also in Ohio.

He was named athletic director at Cox Mill in 2010, and at Ardrey Kell in 2014. He’s been at Marvin Ridge since 2022.

Under Knab’s leadership, the Mavericks won the NCHSAA Wells Fargo Cup for overall athletic excellence in the 2022-23 school year. The school is on track to potentially repeat in 2023-24.

Knab said a lot of the success has to do with tremendous community support and dedicated student-athletes and coaches around the Union County school.

But a lot of it falls on him as well — scheduling, organization, putting out the occasional fire that sparks up.

“That’s one of the burdens of leadership,” he said. “The way I’ve handled it successfully is trying to build good relationships with the community, with the parents. Sometimes, they need to be heard. If you can do that, be available and make them feel heard, the ultimate goal is a win-win solution. The most important thing is the student-athlete’s experience. If we keep that in mind, we can get to that good result.”

Since he’s not coaching a team, Knab doesn’t often get to see his name in the paper, or on social media, and he doesn’t get to hoist the trophy.

But he said there are plenty of rewards in his job.

“Honestly, and I mean this, when you see a kid achieve something, a goal, whether they won a state title, or made all-conference or get to go play at the next level, I guess it’s rewarding when you feel like you had a part in that. Sometimes, when kids come back to you and say, ‘Thank you coach for all you do,’ that’s the reward.

“Sports has been my life. I played three sports in high school and I played in college. I know the impact sports can have on somebody. It’s a big deal, and it’s a big deal what we (athletic directors) do in that regard.”