Name/Institution: Joe Karlgaard/Oberlin College
Title: Director of Athletics and Physical Education
Education: B.A. at Stanford ’96; Ph.D. at University of Minnesota ‘05
• Why did you choose to work at a NCAA Division III institution?
JK: Almost by accident. My college track coach became the AD at Oberlin in 2003, and I came to Ohio to be his assistant in 2004. When he left to become the track coach at Oregon in 2005, I got his job as AD.
JK: Kirk Herbstreit. I think he’s got one of the best jobs in sports … He gets to meet plenty of interesting people and see a bunch of great games and campuses.
JK: After graduation from college, I got a job as a reporter and weekend sportscaster at KFYR-TV in Bismarck, North Dakota. I really enjoyed the job, but I thought coaching was a better fit for me.
JK: I don’t like the word “balance” when describing how the pieces of an education fit together. I think athletics, when coached and taught properly, has tremendous educational value. So athletics complements what occurs in the classroom and in many cases is just as valuable. If you don’t believe that athletics is educational in nature, then it’s a nuisance to the mission of the institution. Our students at Oberlin participate in many educational activities on campus, and athletics is an important component for many of them.
JK: Is this a trick question? My wife, of course! In a professional context, I’d really like to spend some time with Jeff Orleans, who was Executive Director of the Ivy League for more than 20 years.
JK: I’m not too pleased with where the Division is headed with respect to non-traditional seasons. Coming from Division I, where you have permissible year-round practice, I can understand why some Division III coaches want more time to work with their athletes. But what we have now in DIII is a hybrid … Division I lets you go year-round, and I think Division III should not do it at all, just to separate itself a bit. But since we embraced non-traditional seasons, we’ve consistently been chipping away at the restrictions, and I’m not fond of it. I think we should either allow all of it (year-round training), or get rid of all of it.
JK: I ran track in college, and I think that perspective helped me understand why students compete at the Division III level. I didn’t run for anything other than a love for the sport. Not many people are going to get rich running track, so most athletes – whether DI, II, or III – run because they love the sport and the competition. I think that’s why most students at the DIII level choose to play … because they love the sport.
JK: Probably Joanna Johnson finishing 5th at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in 2009. The meet was in Cleveland, so we had a big contingent of fans at the race. And Joanna just looked great. She kicked home the last 400 meters or so to finish 5th and avenge a loss from earlier in the year. She’s the best runner in Oberlin history.
JK: I think it’s tough, as a high school student looking to play DIII, to sort through the 450 or so schools in the division. How do you find the right school? We’ve had some great matches at Oberlin, students who really fit academically, athletically, and socially, and we’ve had others who would have been better off some place else. It’s tough to sift through all the information and figure out what’s best for you. The division is just so big right now, and many of the schools have vastly different philosophies.
JK: I could DJ anything from a kid’s birthday party to a club on South Beach. I’ve got it all … from Carrie Underwood to Gorillaz to Marilyn Manson to Kings of Leon to Pink Floyd.
JK: I love getting to know the athletes. We have some outstanding young adults on our teams, and I like to know what makes them tick. The hardest part is the helicopter parent. They want to be advocates for their children, but they often have difficulty letting them learn the lessons of adulthood on their own.