Building a Lifetime Foundation
For swimmer Brad Goff, his early love for OU primed him for four very big years and beyond
Dec. 14, 2012
By Samantha Franz
All in the Family
For some future college students, there is a defining moment in their lives where their choice for the next steps in their educational path becomes crystal clear. It could be attending a basketball game at a school where their father played decades before. Maybe it's the school's mascot-adorned pennant that has been hanging in their room since they day they were born. Or perhaps it's a simple walk around campus during a site visit when that "ah-ha" moment strikes.
But for Brad Goff (1977-80), he was a Pioneer years before he enrolled at Oakland University.
"My oldest brother Ken attended Oakland and was in one of the first graduating classes in the mid 1960s," he said. Though 13 years his brother's junior, Goff still has memories to this day of spending his childhood on OU's campus. "(I remember) attending his swim meets and seeing Hollie Lepley on the deck coaching the team, learning how to swim from him in the OU pool and watching him compete in a tug-of-war in a mud-filled ditch which later became Beer Lake." (The campus landmark is officially known as "Bear Lake," but the more popular nickname has stuck for decades).
It wasn't just his older sibling that got Goff in the Pioneer spirit early. The Goff's mother was also involved in the Oakland community, and Goff also has memories of being brought to the various volunteer functions she was involved in as a member of "Friends of Oakland," which was the predecessor to the Alumni Association.
So, while Goff's love for the university began as a child, it was being recruited by a local swimming legend that cemented his college decision as an adult.
"I couldn't say no to Corey," he said, speaking of Corey Van Fleet, who served as the swimming coach and later, athletic director, from 1965-82 and produced 152 All-Americans during his illustrious career. "When he recruited me, I knew Oakland also had a strong swim team.
"I liked the fact as well that I would be close enough to home for my parents to be able to attend my swim meets, since they sacrificed a lot of their time and money when I was growing up between taking me to early morning and evening practices and traveling around the state to AAU and YMCA meets on weekends."
Since Goff spent so much time on campus growing up, becoming a Pioneer just seemed like the natural thing to do. Plus, OU having the business administration program he was looking for made it seem like the stars were aligned for him.
"When I was on campus, I felt like I was at home," he said.
Championships, Connections and the Infamous Road Trip Vans
From "being scared to death" in his first NCAA Championship meet in Youngstown, Ohio to helping the Pioneers capture their first NCAA Championship title in 1980, Goff was all over the winner's podium during his time at OU. In particular, he recalls what he describes as his wildest meet ever, when the Pioneers defeated Michigan State University for the first time in 1979 by a score of 63-55.
"(We were) in front of a standing-room only crowd of friends, family and faculty that were jumping up and down and cheering so loudly, you could hear them clearly, even underwater," he said.
Of course, the Pioneers gave the OU community plenty to cheer about during those years and being named a co-captain during his junior and senior years was one of Goff's proudest accomplishments.
"Senior year in particular was really special because this team in 1980 won the first ever NCAA Championship in any sport for Oakland," he said. "I was truly touched that my teammates gave me the honor of being one of the co-captains. It is something that I will never forget."
But it's not just about winning the hardware. As any athlete will attest to, one of the best things about being a student-athlete are the bonds that are formed with their teammates through all of the hard work and experiences shared by everyone involved. Goff is no exception and he looks back fondly on the other young men he competed with.
"With the dedication that everyone had to winning a championship, and the focus that everyone maintained in the classroom, I'm not surprised this team produced as many doctors, lawyers, engineers and professionals as it did," he said. "The hard work and dedication that we put in the pool was a good foundation for the challenges each of us face every day in our respective careers and with our families. Even though some of us have lost contact with one another, I'm sure if we got back together again it would be like seeing a close family member. Things would pick up where they were left off."
Also, as any former Pioneer or Golden Grizzly will tell you, no time as a student-athlete is complete without at least one story from the infamous road trip vans. Goff is no different, only his experience, riding shotgun on the way back from a trip to Indiana, led to a pretty neat summer job at OU's campus.
"Corey Van Fleet was driving and telling his typical stories when we started chatting about schools and jobs and out of the blue, he asked me if I wanted to manage the outdoor swimming pool at Oakland that summer," he said. "Not only did this opportunity give me great experience that I could put on a resume when I graduated, but I was able catch all the concerts at Meadowbrook Festival, play tennis at the Meadowbrook Hall courts and occasionally talk George Wibby (who served as a fundraiser, swimming official, instructor, golf coach, golf course ranger, and OU supporter and is the namesake of the George Wibby award) into letting me on the golf course for free. Even though I was working seven days a week, those turned out to be two great summers."
Life after OU
After his graduation in 1980, Goff began work as an accounting associate and rose through the ranks at Burroughs Corporation before jumping at the opportunity to move to California to help start up their Western Region. After moving into the company's contracts department, Goff began law school, which he completed in 1992. Then, in 1995, he joined what became the credit reporting business Experian and currently resides in their North American law department as the Director of Contracts Counsel.
Goff and his wife of 26 years, Kathleen, currently reside in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. and have three daughters, Stephanie (23), Samantha (20) and Kellie (17), all who have followed in their father's aquatic footsteps by swimming and playing water polo in high school and college.
"Needless to say, I continue to be around pools on a regular basis," he said. "I volunteered as a timer for a while and for the past five years, I have been the play-by-play announcer for their high school water polo games and swim meets. My daughters call me, `The Voice of the Eagles.'"
Goff credits his time as an Oakland student-athlete in helping him get to where he is today, particularly the mastery of time management.
"Time management is one of the most important skills you will ever learn," he said. "It will serve you well in whatever you choose to do with the rest of your life".
While the campus has gone through many physical changes and ground breakings over the years, Goff claims that the soul of the campus has not changed at all.
"I am confident that the memories I have from my days at Oakland will remain with me the rest of my life," he said. "Enjoy your time at Oakland. It's a special time."