Feebs

Calvin's inimitable sports information director

by Michael Van Denend '78
Spring 2013

It is common knowledge around campus that if you have a Calvin sports question, current or historical, the person with the answer is Jeff Febus. In fact, one can almost always get that answer, no matter how obscure the question, on the spot—with generous side commentary and analysis.

Febus (who many refer to by his nickname, “Feebs”) is nearing 19 years as Calvin’s sports information director, a work-intensive, late-nights-and-weekends job that makes his longevity in the position remarkable.

He explains that he’s still on the job because of his understanding wife, Julie (Post), a league MVP in basketball at Calvin, who not only loves sports but also understands the nature of his work. She also belongs to a farming family that puts in long and demanding hours. Jeff and Julie help each other during those times, especially in parenting sons Jarrett and Justin.

“It has been a blessing to work here,” said Febus, who earned a master’s in communications from Drake University after his ’92 graduation from Calvin. “Over the years, I’ve had great coaches, athletes, mentors and student workers to learn from and work with. And it is certainly a joy to watch Calvin athletes; they work hard, compete hard, at times overachieve—and still live out their faith and excel in the classroom.”

He distinctly remembers being recruited to Calvin right out of grad school by then-media relations director Phil de Haan. Febus enjoyed sports, but was intending to go on for a PhD and teach communications. He was finishing up his thesis on “truth telling in documentaries and docudramas” when de Haan called.

I think God was getting my attention by presenting two roads to me. It was a prayerful time. But when Phil called and offered me the job, I said yes right away,” he said. He learned from others along the way, most notably de Haan and the late Albion sports information director Robin Hartman, who both became close mentors and friends.

“Statistics were done by hand for my first three years,” he said. “I still remember that old Radio Shack processor that we’d use to type in and then send game stories and box scores to the newspapers. You could see your story being transmitted line by line like a ticker-tape.

“I am also a very competitive person, and noted how Tom Renner was doing things at Hope College. Tom set a high standard at Hope, with excellence in the stories, media relations and publications he directed. Over the years, we’ve become good friends, and he is certainly one of the key mentors who has guided my work,” Febus said.

The feeling is mutual over at Hope. “It is my pleasure to have Jeff as a friend,” said Renner. “He is the consummate professional. Win or lose, he stays professional. Jeff is highly regarded by his peers throughout NCAA Division III.”

Renner noted that Febus has a reputation of mentoring student writers who work for sports information. The string of Calvin-connected writing awards within the MIAA (Calvin’s league, the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association) confirms that reputation.

Since the MIAA established two awards for sports information—the Robin Hartman Award for writing and the Tom Renner Award for student work in the field—Calvin students and staff have been honored eight of the nine possible times. Seven of the eight awards went to Calvin students, the other to Jeff Febus himself.

Annalise Venhuizen Kontras, the first Renner Award recipient, said, “Beyond the tangible aspects of his talent—his succinctly descriptive journalistic style, seemingly infinite lexicon of sports jargon, unparalleled proficiency in Dutch bingo and appropriately disheveled office—is his unseen expertise: the ability to cultivate and capitalize on the various talents of his assistants.”

Mitch Blankespoor, the Renner recipient in 2012 and a Calvin senior, said, “For someone who wants to enter the sports information field next year, I owe Jeff everything. We obviously talk about Calvin athletics, but we also talk about much more. I appreciate the working culture he creates for his students.”

“If Harry Caray has a statue outside of Wrigley Field, Jeff Febus deserves a statue outside of VanNoord Arena, said Bruce Van Baren “09, a Hartman writing award winner.

Men’s athletic director Jim Timmer Jr. asserts that “Jeff’s work is directly related to any success we’ve had in athletics, because he highlights our programs so well and with so much passion that recruitment benefits immensely. He bleeds maroon and gold.”

Febus has witnessed and written about many great Calvin athletic accomplishments over the years, from the first national championship in men’s basketball (1992, as a student writer for Chimes) to the exciting recent exploits of the women’s volleyball team.

The biggest changes in Calvin athletics over the last 20 years, in his estimation, are the expansion of opportunities in all sports, the “top caliber” facilities that Calvin now offers and the laudable series of achievements on the women’s teams—women he calls “incredible all-around student athletes.”

Through it all, Febus reflects, are the Calvin constants: great coaches, dedicated administrators, invested fans and the knowledge that the greatest glory goes to God.

He left out one constant that Knights everywhere rely on and appreciate: Jeff Febus.