The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Sports April 14, 2006

Joe Karlgaard Selected As the New Athletics Director
Karlgaard Focuses on Action, Not Words

Joe Karlgaard has been named Oberlin’s new permanent Delta Lodge Director of Athletics and Physical Education. Karlgaard served as the interim Athletic Director since August 1, 2005 when previous AD Vin Lananna left Oberlin for the University of Oregon last year.

Karlgaard arrived in Oberlin in 2003 and served as Oberlin’s assistant director of athletics for external affairs and media relations. Prior to arriving in Oberlin, Karlgaard was the assistant men’s cross country and track and field coach at the University of Minnesota, where he also earned master’s and doctoral degrees in educational policy and administration. Karlgaard was a four-time letter winner in track and field at Stanford University, coached by his mentor, Lananna.

Oberlin interviewed several candidates from institutions throughout the country; Karlgaard filled the role of AD and interviewed for it simultaneously.

“It was tough, because people have seen me as the athletic director this year, on the one hand, but on the other hand I’m trying to tell people where we can be in the years to come and reconciling those two things was challenging,” said Karlgaard.

In addition to Karlgaard, several candidates were interviewed for the position, including Harvard’s current AD and others from Division I-A athletic programs. Karlgaard spoke about the advantage someone on the outside of the athletic department may have had compared to himself during the interview process.because you dont have a record that people are intimately familiar with,” said Karlgaard.

Many people in the athletic department consider the 2005-2006 year a transition period for Oberlin’s athletic program. Lananna wasn’t the only high ranking administrator to leave; associate AD Michael Riley also left for the University of Oregon. More recently, former assistant AD and head coach of men’s basketball Frank “Happy” Dobbs resigned. The College chose to fill the highest-ranking positions first and as a result several of the mid-level positions remain open.

“Because we’ve been in a transition year it’s been difficult for the College to re-supply those positions. If I wasn’t appointed as AD the new AD wouldn’t be able to replenish some of the administrative positions that have fallen by the way-side,” said Karlgaard.

Given the number of newcomers entering the department in 2006-2007 one would expect a great deal of change to take place with respect to the goals of the athletic program as whole.

“We will try to keep some of the initiatives that started under Vin going under full recognition that there may be a new athletic administration for ’06-’07 school year,” said Karlgaard.

While Karlgaard was excited to have earned the job permanently, he also wanted to avoid getting over-zealous and felt that his role is accomplishing goals, not just talking about them.

“There are lots of people in this world with good ideas, but what separates the great people from those with the good ideas is in execution,” said Karlgaard.

Karlgaard pointed to many key core areas the athletic program needs to focus on to take good ideas and execute them effectively. He stressed personnel development, reaching out to alumni, budget management and integrity.

In reference to personnel development, Karlgaard emphasized his role in communicating the program’s philosophy to coaches, faculty and staff.

“It’s our philosophy to maximize the experience of all our student athletes...and it’s essential that I work with our coaches and our administrators so that they have the philosophy in place, so that everybody does have a good experience,” said Karlgaard.

Karlgaard also mentioned that many alumni athletes have been “disaffected” over the years, and that bringing them back into the fold is a key component going forward.

“That goes beyond asking them for money, it goes more to involving them [alumni] in alumni games and inviting them to contests when we’re on the road...and connecting with alumni and parents and so on,” he said.

Money management was another one of the key areas Karlgaard spoke about.

“There’s a responsibility we have in athletics in making sure that all of the money that’s allocated by the VP of finance is well spent and that we stay within our budget,” Karlgaard said.

In addition, Karlgaard made it clear that a commitment to values and respect are priorities that need to be maintained in order to run a successful program.

“Treating students and student athletes with respect, making sure they treat community members with respect, and following NCAA rules and playing and competing fairly-all of those things are important,” said Karlgaard.

Joe Karlgaard has been at Oberlin for three years, and has moved higher on the administrative ladder each year. He has gained the permanent position of AD when Oberlin’s department of athletics was clearly trying to pick up the pieces, as a number of high-ranking administrators have exited in the past year. Now that he has the official nod, we will see how Karlgaard performs as the program’s go-to guy. Karlgaard put it best when he said, “I can talk about wanting to have a successful program, but it’s my job to back that up.”


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