Joe Karlgaard enters his third year at the helm of Rice Athletics, looking to build upon the momentum and innovation that have characterized his first two years as Rice’s director of athletics, recreation and lifetime fitness.
Since being introduced to the Rice community on September 9, 2013, Kargaard has seen the Owls ascend to record levels of success in competition and in the classroom, while the department has experienced similar results in efforts to bolster both fund raising and revenue streams to enhance the experience of both student-athletes and Owls fans.
Rice has captured eight conference titles over the last two years, including five in 2013-14 which matched the greatest total in school history. That record total was highlighted by milestone conference crowns in golf (first since 1939) and football (first outright title since 1956). At the same time, Owls student-athletes have continued to rank in the top five in NCAA graduation success rankings.
In his first two years, Karlgaard has also recruited two dynamic coaches to lead the Owls fortunes on the basketball court. Men’s coach Mike Rhoades’ first season on South Main saw his team steadily improve during the conference season and local fans took notice, culminating with the first home sellout since 2008 in the final home game of the year. After the season, Karlgaard brought Tina Langley to Rice after a successful run as an assistant at Maryland during the Terrapins consecutive Final Four appearances.
The success of the Owls in competition along with expanded efforts in marketing and fan engagement has generated five-year highs in ticket sales for football, men’s basketball and baseball.
These accomplishments underscored two of the four primary pillars (Athletic Competitiveness and Academic Success along with Life Education and Achievement and Rice Values) of his vision for the future of athletics at Rice, which he announced in the summer of 2014.
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 increase 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 fund-raised seven endowed coaching positions. He also created the Bill Walsh Society, a new source of endowed discretionary funds for use by the director of athletics.
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 directed four conference coaches of the year. Oberlin invested in athletics facilities improvements over five years under Karlgaard, with most of the funding provided through private gifts. Kahn Track and Shults Field, a $3 million stadium for track and field, soccer, and lacrosse, was the crown jewel of the college’s outdoor facilities. The Don Hunsinger Tennis Courts, constructed in 2007, played host to the 2010 NCAA Division-III Men’s Tennis Championships. Williams Field House, a $3 million LEED-Gold rated indoor practice facility, opened in 2009.
Prior to becoming Oberlin’s director of athletics and physical education, Karlgaard served as the assistant athletic director for external affairs during the 2004-05 academic year. In just one year, he tripled the number of active donors to the Heisman Club and redesigned the athletic department’s publications.
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. While on staff, Karlgaard helped the men’s track and field squad win the NCAA Division-I outdoor title, its first since 1934.
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. Minnesota won the Big Ten outdoor championship with the highest team score in conference history. Karlgaard received his Ph.D. in educational policy and administration in 2005.
Karlgaard his wife, Jill, and their three sons, Charlie (age 8) and twins Lucas Robert and Daniel Richard (who were born in August) and dog Fleener make their home in Houston.