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As he enters his fourth year as Rice's Director of Athletics, Recreation and Lifetime Fitness, the impact of Joe Karlgaard's Vision for Rice Athletics has resulted in a dramatic upgrade to facilities, record-breaking donations and dramatic increases in ticket sales from an energized fan base inspired by conference championships in nine different sports.
The Vision for Rice Athletics is built upon four primary pillars: Athletic Competitiveness, Academic Success, Life Education and Achievement and Rice Values. Rice's student-athletes have consistently delivered in competition and in the classroom, while Owls fans and administrators have responded with dramatic upgrades in donations, sales and facilities.
Rice captured C-USA titles in women's cross country, women's outdoor track and men's and women's tennis in 2015-16, raising the total count to 12 conference titles among nine different sports since Karlgaard came to South Main in the fall of 2013.
At the same time, Owls student-athletes have continued to rank in the top five in NCAA graduation success rankings.
Rice athletes have moved into a pair of facilities since the start of 2016 that embody the university's continuing commitment to excellence in all facets of the student-athlete experience.
The opening of the $33 million Brian Patterson Sports Performance Center at Rice Stadium in August was a transformational moment for Rice Athletics and its fans.
The 60,000 square-foot facility has re-engineered the experience for both student-athletes and fans at the 66-year old venue. The fully-funded project features state-of-the-art medical facilities for all athletes, a new video board and production center that will transform both the fan experience as well as the department's ability to deliver programming to the new C-USA.tv initiative while also providing a home for Rice Football that is on a par with any program at the FBS level.
In the spring of 2016, Rice's track and field programs had their first opportunity to showcase a $2 million renovation to the Wendel D. Ley track. This fall, the women's soccer team will welcome opponents to the facility that features new bleachers and other amenities for fans, an enclosed press box, team meeting rooms and a weight room.
These upgrades have been made possible through an aggressive reorganization of the Owls fundraising efforts which continue to realize record growth. Over the last three years, commitments to the Owl Club have increased by 44% ($1.51M in FY14 to $2.175M in FY16) thanks in large part to a 73% increase in donors (854 in FY14 to 1,476 in FY16) who have generated a 116% increase in gifts (897 in FY14 to 1,941 in FY16.
On the court, Karlgaard has energized both of Rice's basketball programs with the hiring of Mike Rhoades to lead the men's program in 2014 and Tina Langley the following year to guide the fortunes of the women's team.
The success of the Owls in competition along with expanded efforts in marketing and fan engagement, sales, and business strategy has generated five-year highs in all ticketed sports, as well as record licensing and sponsorship revenues.
Karlgaard's efforts at Rice have earned him national recognition. In March of 2014 he was recognized by Sports Business Journal as one of their "40 under 40" which annually honors the best and brightest young executives who are shaping the future of the industry. He has also been asked to speak at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum and the Division-1 Athletics Director's Association.
Karlgaard came to Rice from Stanford University where he served as senior associate athletics director for development. Prior to Stanford, Karlgaard was athletics director at Oberlin College from 2005 to 2011.
At Stanford, Karlgaard was responsible for helping set the strategic direction for a $90 million annual budget and led a staff of 14 in delivering the greatest single-year in the school's fundraising history, $52 million in 2012. He also oversaw the completion of a $22 million campaign for a new football operations building for the Cardinal and created seven endowed coaching positions.
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 school history. Eleven Oberlin athletes were named conference players of the year and more than 400 were named to all-conference teams.
A 1996 graduate of Stanford University with a bachelor's degree in history, Karlgaard was a four-year letter winner in track and field for the Cardinal. He returned to Stanford in 1998 as an assistant to Vin Lananna, his former coach. Karlgaard left Stanford in 2000 to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of Minnesota, where he also served as an assistant coach of men's cross country and track and field. Karlgaard received his Ph.D. in educational policy and administration in 2005.
Karlgaard his wife, Jill, and their three sons, Charlie (9), twins Lucas and Daniel (who celebrated their first birthdays in August) and dog Fleener make their home in Houston.