Athletics News

Leebron announces Joe Karlgaard as Rice's next director of athletics

Joe Karlgaard
Rice Director of Athletics

Sep 9, 2013

HOUSTON -- (Sept. 9, 2013) -- Rice University President David Leebron announced at a news conference on campus today that Joe Karlgaard will be the school's next director of athletics, recreation and lifetime fitness.

Karlgaard currently serves as senior associate athletics director for development at Stanford University. Prior to Stanford, Karlgaard was athletics director at Oberlin College from 2005 to 2011. He will start at Rice Oct. 7.

"We're thrilled to be able to attract someone with Joe's breadth of experience," Leebron said. "He brings the values of academic excellence and high integrity that define Rice, coupled with a passionate desire to compete successfully at the most competitive level of intercollegiate athletics."

"I'm grateful to President Leebron and the committee for this terrific opportunity," Karlgaard said. "I'm excited to work with the Rice community to build an athletics program of the highest caliber."

Leebron noted that Karlgaard has been an athletics director with comprehensive responsibility at a distinguished liberal arts college, Oberlin, and has experience as a senior leader at Stanford, which is known for combining high academic standards with Division I athletics competition, just as Rice is. 

At Stanford, Karlgaard was responsible for helping set the strategic direction for a $90 million annual budget and led the Athletics Department's efforts in delivering the greatest single-year increase in the school's fundraising history, to $52 million in 2012.

In his time at Oberlin, Karlgaard led an unparalleled rise in varsity sports. Oberlin set institutional records in the North Coast Athletic Conference All-Sports Trophy in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011. During his tenure, 12 of 22 varsity programs achieved their highest conference placement in NCAC history. Eleven Oberlin athletes were named conference players of the year and more than 400 were named to all-conference teams. Karlgaard also mentored four conference coaches of the year.

"Rice athletics is filled with potential, only some of which has been realized," Karlgaard said. "My goal is to fully tap the energies, passion and resources of the Rice community to build a program of broad national prominence."

Rice Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby chaired the search committee for the new athletics director. The committee conducted a nationwide search with the assistance of the search firm Korn/Ferry International.

"We had an extraordinary group of candidates for this position," Kirby said. "Joe really stood out among the highly qualified finalists we recommended to President Leebron.  The committee is confident his proven track record and ability to develop a compelling vision and a realistic strategy to achieve it will be great assets to the Rice athletics program."

"I want to thank the committee for their diligent work," Leebron said. "They identified several excellent candidates, but Joe Karlgaard was our unanimous first choice, based on his potential to move Rice athletics forward and contribute broadly to the entire Rice community."

Leebron also thanked interim Athletics Director Rick Mello for his outstanding leadership during the search. 

A Stanford graduate with a B.A. in history, Karlgaard was a four-year letter winner as part of Stanford's NCAA champion track and field program. Karlgaard received a Ph.D. and master's degree in educational policy and administration from the University of Minnesota, where he also served as assistant coach for the men's track and field and cross country teams from 2000 to 2003. In his final year as a coach at Minnesota, the Gophers won the Big Ten outdoor championship with the highest team score in conference history.

Karlgaard and his wife, Jill, have one son, Charlie.


Comments about Joe Karlgaard:

Bob Bowlsby, former director of athletics at Stanford and now the commissioner of the Big 12 Conference: "Joe Karlgaard will be an outstanding director of athletics at Rice University. As a colleague at Stanford, Joe consistently contributed to and enhanced the excellence of the program. Dr. Karlgaard is innovative, energetic and exceedingly insightful in his approach to developing successful teams and in building winning organizations."

Marvin Krislov, president of Oberlin College: "Joe helped restore the rich tradition of Oberlin athletics during his six-year tenure as athletics director. In addition to strengthening Oberlin’s competitive profile, Joe improved our athletics facilities and raised record amounts of money. The Oberlin College Department of Athletics is stronger and healthier because of Joe Karlgaard."  


Search Committee Membership:

Kevin Kirby, committee chair and Rice vice president for administration
Bucky Allshouse ’71, Rice trustee
Gabe Baker, Rice undergraduate and student-athlete
Natalie Beazant, Rice undergraduate and student-athlete
Jay Collins ’69, Rice trustee
Lynn Elsenhans ’78, Rice trustee
Karen George ’77, Rice trustee emeritus
Robert Griffin, Rice professor of civil and environmental engineering and faculty athletics representative
Jamey Rootes, president, Houston Texans
Jeffery Rose ’77, Rice trustee emeritus
Stephen Trauber ’84, vice chairman and global head of energy, Citigroup
Bobby Tudor ’82, chair, Rice Board of Trustees
Darrow Zeidenstein, Rice vice president for resource development

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,708 undergraduates and 2,374 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice has been ranked No. 1 for best quality of life multiple times by the Princeton Review and No. 2 for “best value” among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. To read “What they’re saying about Rice,” go to

For more information, contact David Ruth, director of national media relations at Rice, at or 713-348-6327.



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