Karlgaard ready to take on Rice Athletics
Rice University's reputation for unconventional wisdom ranges all the way from the classroom to its Division I athletic program. Joe Karlgaard, the future director of athletics for the Rice Owls, is prepared to utilize his diverse athletic background to not only strive for athletic success, but also integrate himself into the Rice community. President David Leebron announced Karlgaard's hiring for the position Sept. 9, and Karlgaard will assume his role in Houston Oct. 7.
In 2004, Karlgaard was hired as an assistant athletic director at Oberlin College, a liberal arts college in Ohio composed of 2,900 undergraduates. A year later, he took over the position of director of athletics and led Oberlin to win the North Coast Athletic Conference All-Sports Trophy four times in six years. According to the Stanford Athletics website, Karlgaard revamped Oberlin's Division III athletics program and then went on to become the senior associate athletics director for development at Stanford University in spring 2011. Stanford won its 19th consecutive National Association of College Directors of Athletics Learfield Sports Directors' Cup last year and continues to be one of the best athletic universities in the country. Karlgaard will be leaving his current position at Stanford Oct. 6 in order to make the move to Rice.
Karlgaard said one of the reasons he took the job was because Rice seemed like a good combination of Stanford and Oberlin.
"Rice kind of combines many of my favorite elements of both Stanford and Oberlin," Karlgaard said. "It's a place that emphasizes the undergraduate, and it's a small and intimate environment where people know each other really well, which is a lot like Oberlin. But its aspirations are large, and it competes in Division I athletics, and that's more like Stanford."
Athletic administration runs in Karlgaard's family. Karlgaard's father, Dick Karlgaard, was twice named the National High School Athletic Director of the Year for his contribution to high school athletics in Bismarck, N.D.
Karlgaard ran track and field throughout high school and his undergraduate career at Stanford. Karlgaard has also been an assistant coach for the men's track and field team at Stanford and an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota, where he earned his doctorate in educational policy and development. Karlgaard said that as someone who saw Division I athletics as the most enjoyable part of his college career, he hopes to pass on that tradition.
"I love to compete," Karlgaard said. "I love the camaraderie of being on a team. I love to set goals and then work toward them. I love to improve, and I love the notion of constant improvement. It's shaped my character, I think, and I want to provide the best opportunities I can for the people who come after me."
Karlgaard said he has formulated a tentative plan for his first 90 days at Rice in order to best assess the opportunities he will provide. Karlgaard said he will focus on networking in his first 30 days. This will include engaging the faculty, meeting student-athletes, and attending events with alumni and Rice athletics supporters. Karlgaard said he has already attended Rice's first home football game Sept. 14 against the University of Kansas, where he conversed with many people from the Rice community and even received the game ball. Karlgaard said that while he has a vision for improving all 16 sports at Rice, most of his goals will be implemented after he integrates himself into the university.
"The first 30 days will be meeting people and making those initial assessments," Karlgaard said. "The second 30 days will be sort of focused on formulating a game plan, and the last 30 days is about launching that plan. It will take me some time, and I don't want to make any big mistakes early on, so I need to do a lot more listening than acting in the first month or so."
Karlgaard said he does, however, have a focus on improving financial stability. He has dealt with marketing and fundraising in his past positions, which will carry over to his position at Rice. During his time at Oberlin, Karlgaard invested $8 million, most of which was gathered through private gifts, in improvements to the athletic facilities. Karlgaard was also one of the brains behind Stanford's $90 million annual athletics budget and helped the athletic department produce its greatest single-year increase in school fundraising, according to the Stanford Athletics Department. Karlgaard said he hopes to allocate extra funds for the Rice athletic department to improve football facilities, the track and field complex, and any other facilities in need of improvement.
"I think from a facility investment standpoint, there are some things we need to do with football," Karlgaard said. "We need to do something with track and soccer and that complex, but football is our largest complex, and there just hasn't been much done to it, so I hope to make an investment there."
Karlgaard said he is excited to experience Texas and the culture of Rice University and that he is willing to put a lot of work into making Rice's athletic program the best it can be.
"There's never a point where you can say, 'I'm good enough; I don't need to get better," Karlgaard said. "I think that's the way Rice students are motivated in the classroom, I think that's the way alumni are motivated in their professional worlds, and that's the way we want to be motivated in athletics."
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