Rice University

Joe Karlgaard
Director of Athletics

Joe Karlgaard

Since his arrival on South Main in the fall of 2013, Joe Karlgaard has overseen a dramatic reshaping of Rice Athletics, providing unparalleled upgrades to all facets of the student-athlete experience as well as dynamic initiatives in business operations and fund raising.

In April of 2019, Karlgaard outlined the strategy to enhance these improvements with the release of “Vision for Victory”, a new five-year strategic plan that outlines three strategic priorities for Rice Athletics and defines 10 goals and accompanying initiatives to support them.  “Vision for Victory” looks to build upon the success of Karlgaard’s ”New Vision for Rice Athletics”, a five-year plan announced in 2014 which saw many of its goals come to fruition.

In spite of the specter of COVID-19 hanging over collegiate athletics since early 2020, Rice student-athletes have carved out a record of notable success.

They combined during 2020-21 to record their second-best finish in the Learfield Directors Cup standings in the last 10 years, highlighted by four women’s teams finishing in the top 26 in the country. Soccer marched to its first appearance in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Sweet 16 and ended the season ranked 16th, women’s outdoor track tied for 21st, volleyball was ranked 23rd and women’s basketball finished 26th after a memorable run to the WNIT championship.

In 2020, Joe Karlgaard was appointed to a Lead1 working group to examine issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in college sports and he co-chaired the political subcommittee which produced a white paper in January of 2021 with 10 recommendations to further DEI across FBS campuses.

The Owls have captured 25 conference titles in 11 different sports during Karlgaard’s tenure, the most titles in the conference over that span.  Rice student-athletes continue to lead the way in the classroom as well, capturing their 13th C-USA Institutional Excellence award with a combined 3.41 GPA. Rice is annually ranked among the nation’s best by the NCAA for its graduation success rates and has maintained a career placement rate of over 90% among its graduating student-athletes.

Joe 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.

A 1996 graduate of Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in history, Joe 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 (14), twins Lucas and Daniel (6) and dog Fleener make their home in Houston.