The University of South Alabama Department of Athletics enters its seventh year under the guidance of Director of Athletics Dr. Joel Erdmann coming off one of its most successful performances both in competition and the classroom, as the Jaguars both won its first Vic Bubas Cup — presented to the top overall school in competition in the Sun Belt Conference — since 1999-2000 while as a group the school’s nearly 400 student-athletes are carrying a record 2.98 grade-point average.
Three teams claimed regular-season league titles with the women’s soccer squad accomplishing the feat in the fall, and both baseball and women’s tennis earning championships in the spring, while the USA softball team won its third Sun Belt Tournament crown in the last four years, and the men’s cross country and women’s tennis teams took home SBC postseason titles as well. In addition to the Jag soccer, softball and women’s tennis teams competing in the NCAA Tournament, the football program became the fastest ever at the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision level to reach a bowl game after participating in the inaugural Raycom Media Camellia Bowl in December.
At the end of the spring semester, 14 of the department’s 17 teams had a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher while 163 individuals combined to make the Dean’s and Dean’s Honor Lists. A total of 188 student-athletes had a 3.0-plus grade-point average during the spring semester; that included 103 who posted a GPA of 3.5 or better, with 43 of those individuals earning a 4.0 mark. During the course of the academic year, 75 student-athletes received their bachelor’s degree from USA.
In 2013-14, the Jags’ 17 sport programs recorded 95.5 points to finish second in the Bubas Cup standings for the school’s highest finish in more than 10 years. The women’s soccer team earned its first-ever league tournament championship and NCAA Tournament berth, highlighting a performance in which USA finished in the top half of the standings in 12 sports, while the Jaguar men’s golf and softball squads returned to an NCAA Regional for the second and third consecutive seasons, respectively. That included second-place performances by the softball, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s golf and men’s outdoor track and field teams in the spring.
USA’s athletic success that year also included the Jag football team which, competing for the first time as a full NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision member, went 4-3 in Sun Belt action to tie for third place while winning six contests overall to qualify for a postseason bowl as well as the Jaguar volleyball team, which set a school record with nine conference victories en route to earning the fifth seed at the league tournament.
The department not only had 72 current and former student-athletes earn their degrees during the academic year, while a record 155 were honored by the Sun Belt on the Commissioner’s List and Academic Honor Roll.
His efforts helped spearhead the development of a suite for the men’s and women’s golf teams, which includes a hitting bay and practice putting green along with locker rooms and office space. The men’s and women’s track programs not only moved into a complex that includes locker rooms for both squads, weight and training rooms, a lounge and coaches offices, but the track underwent a makeover in the spring of 2015 that including the installation of a new scoreboard and
press box. In recent years, The Cage — home of the Jaguar soccer team — has seen the replacement of team bench areas and bleachers as well as the addition of a press box, while volleyball had a new scoreboard and speaker system installed in Jaguar Gym prior to the 2012 campaign.
He has also restructured the athletic department staff; not only did Erdmann add personnel in the areas of academic services and NCAA compliance, he directed the creation of Jaguar Sports Properties in 2014 to handle the department’s marketing, advertising and broadcast rights. Erdmann helped the school make the transition on the diamond from the 28-year career of the legendary Steve Kittrell to Mark Calvi, an assistant on the staff of 2010 College World Series champion South Carolina, who is now the school’s head baseball coach. In the spring of 2013, he also hired Matthew Graves — who was part of a staff that led Butler to back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament championship game — to guide the men’s basketball program; he has been responsible for selecting six of USA’s 12 current head coaches.
In addition, Erdmann just completed the third of a five-year term on the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee; he will serve as chair of the committee during the 2015-16 academic year, with duties including helping to select and seed the field for the NCAA Tournament as well as assist in site administration. In past years, he was a member of the NCAA Division II Football Championship Committee during the 2006-07 academic year, and he also co-chaired the NCAA Division II
Football Southeast Region Advisory Committee. During his tenure with Jaguar Athletics, Erdmann has been a member of the Sun Belt Conference baseball, softball, golf and tennis committees, he is currently the chair of the athletic directors committee. Erdmann was also part of the league’s membership committee that visited campuses of prospective members across the country before extending an invitation to Coastal Carolina to become the 12th full-time member of the conference in the coming years.A 1986 South Dakota State graduate with a degree in education, he received a master’s degree in physical education from USA in 1992 and earned his doctorate from Florida State in 1995 in sports management/athletic administration. A native of Bismarck, N.D., Erdmann is married to the former Tina Milton; the couple has three dogs and a cat.