This year marks an important change for the St. Olaf athletic program. This past summer, the school hired Ryan Bowles as the new athletic director. Bowles formerly served as associate athletic director at the University of Maryland, overseeing varsity sports and promoting leadership quali- ties among athletes and staff. Bowles also coordinated the University of Maryland’s move from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big Ten. With this experience under his belt, Bowles hopes to maintain the suc- cess that the St. Olaf athletic program’s recent success.
“We hope to be the best and stay at the top, but at the same time to promote spirit here on campus and in the city of Northfield,” Bowles said. “We want a pro- gram that students and members of the St. Olaf community can be proud of.”
The athletic department came under scrutiny last year when the baseball team faced allegations of hazing. The incident was a major source of controversy for both the athletic program and for the college as a whole. This led St. Olaf to update its hazing policy and team athletic traditions. Bowles accepts the fact that his new posi- tion will inevitably present challenges.
“It is definitely hard to predict the chal- lenges that will come up, and St. Olaf is a new place for me, but I’m confident that this program can make it through these
challenges,” he said. “It is important to bring such a large staff together.”
St. Olaf fields the most intercollegiate athletic programs in the MIAC, with over 20 varsity sports offered on campus.
“There are 27 different sports here at St. Olaf, and we need to remember that in the end, we are one team,” Bowles said.
Bowles seems prepared for the position and is certainly excited to be part of a St.
Olaf community that strives for success in athletics as well as academics. Bowles him- self is a former student-athlete. A four- time letter winner in soccer at McDaniel College, he can easily relate to all of the student-athletes here on campus.
“I am very excited to work with all the student-athletes, especially since at a liberal arts college, academics come first to them, and then dedication to their respective sport,” he said. “I already love being here at St. Olaf considering the culture that the school has developed. I’m hoping to get the students more involved than they have been in the past, so expect some new things that will bring out spirit. Students should be on the lookout.”
Bowles has both the experience and attitude to positively influence St. Olaf athletic programs in myriad ways. Even though St. Olaf is known primarily as a music school, athletics are quite popu- lar and there have been several highly successful programs in recent years. The men’s cross-country team won the DIII national championships last year, and the men’s basketball team are the defending MIAC champions. Despite this success, the events of last spring signalled the need for change. This hire is a smart move for an athletic program in need of guidance.