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Wichita State University names Murray State AD Kevin Saal as its new Director of Athletics

By WSU Strategic Communications

Wichita, Kan. – Wichita State University President Rick Muma is excited to announce the hiring of Kevin Saal as WSU’s new Director of Athletics.

Saal, who has been athletic director at Murray State University since March 2019, will take the reins of the Shocker Athletics program from WSU’s interim athletic director, Sarah Adams, effective mid-July.

“This is a new day for Shocker Athletics. As we look to the future of our program, I am incredibly pleased to welcome Kevin to Shocker Nation. Kevin returns to his home state of Kansas with a strong, forward-thinking vision for our men’s and women’s intercollegiate athletics programs,” says Wichita State President Rick Muma. “Kevin is just the person to move WSU’s athletics program forward and push it to even greater heights.”

In his role as Director of Athletics, Saal will report to Muma and be responsible for managing, planning and directing the operations of the university’s intercollegiate athletics programs. He will also be responsible for managing oversight of sponsorships, fundraising, partnerships, marketing, public relations, strategic planning, compliance, academics, student-athlete development and performance, Name Image and Likeness (NIL), and hiring and mentoring coaches.

“My wife Jennifer and I are incredibly humbled and blessed to accept this special opportunity to represent Wichita State University, Wichita State Athletics and Shocker Nation. With great enthusiasm, gratitude and appreciation, we are thankful to President Muma and the Search Advisory Group for their trust, confidence and support,” Saal says.

Saal led Murray State through two athletic conference realignment / transition processes and has grown the department to new heights with increases in student-athlete APR, league championships, and appearances in NCAA tournament and post-season play.

Before coming to Murray State, Saal spent 12 years at the University of Kentucky, where he held various roles before being named executive associate director of athletics, working under the leadership of Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart.

His experience at Kentucky included leadership in sports administration, capital projects and facilities construction, as well as budget and human resources management and championships administration. Known for an exceptional work ethic, Saal has excelled in developing relationships with donors and has extensive experience in facilities growth under his leadership.

“With an incredible focus on education and a competitive spirit, Kevin brings an integrity and discipline that is the foundation for moving teams to a championship culture,” says University of Kentucky Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart. “His passion and capacity for college athletics is balanced by a love and care for people at the highest, most genuine level. His experience at every level in athletics provides WSU and the community with a proven leader going forward.”

Returning home to Kansas

Saal, 44, is from Kansas. He worked at Kansas State University from 2000-05, where he was event coordinator and had administrative responsibilities supporting men’s and women’s golf and rowing. From 2005-07, Saal was director of operations at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

In 2000, Saal received his master’s degree in athletics administration from the University of Kansas, after spending time at the University of Arkansas — where he was a swimming and diving student-athlete — and Texas Christian University, where he earned his bachelor’s in psychology. Saal is also nearing completion of his Doctorate in Education with a focus on P-20 and Community Leadership.

Saal and his wife Jennifer — also from Kansas— have two college-age sons: Jacob and Alex. Kevin and Jennifer are looking forward to their return to Kansas.

“Jennifer and I are eager to return to our home state to engage and partner with Shocker student-athletes, coaches, administration, alumni, supporters and the greater Wichita community,” Saal says. “With much work to be done, I look forward to continuing to develop WSU’s championship culture through our strategic vision, core values, a first-class student-athlete experience and, ultimately, competitive excellence. Go Shockers!”

What others have to say about Kevin Saal

“Wichita State has made a great hire in Kevin Saal. There is no doubt he will guide the Shockers with great success through these unique times in collegiate athletics. His commitment to students and their experience academically, athletically and socially will have an immediate impact on the department.”

— Mark Coyle, director of athletics, University of Minnesota

“Wichita State has made an excellent choice in Kevin Saal to lead Athletics. Kevin brings a strong set of experiences along with the values and vision to lead WSU to the next level.”

— Rob Mullens, director of athletics, University of Oregon 

“Wichita State has landed a strong leader during an important time of transition in college athletics. I am excited for both Kevin and Jennifer for this next step but even more elated for what this means for Shocker Nation. Kevin has made a mark on every school he has worked at, and I have no doubt that Wichita State made the right choice to take them to the next level.”

— DeWayne Peevy, director of Athletics, DePaul University 

The national search process

The search for WSU’s Director of Athletics was led by Muma with guidance from Parker Executive Search and a Search Advisory Group that included the following:

  • Angela Buckner, former WSU Women’s Basketball student-athlete and recreation director for Woodard Recreation Center, Fairmount Community Center and Atwater Neighborhood Resource Center
  • Lynn Nichols, chair-elect, WSU Foundation Board and CEO of Yingling Aviation
  • Nate Robertson, former WSU Men’s Baseball student-athlete, retired professional baseball player, Maize High School assistant baseball coach, and partner at the Candle Club and LaVela
  • John Rolfe, WSU alumnus and president and CEO, Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Dr. Clay Stoldt, faculty athletic representative and interim dean of the College of Applied Studies
  • Evan Wessel, former WSU Men’s Basketball student-athlete and financial advisor, Stoutheart Financial Group

“I truly appreciate the help provided by the Search Advisory Group and Parker Executive Search, all of whom brought great value to the process of filling such an important role,” Muma says. “And a special thank you goes to Sarah Adams, who graciously stepped in as interim athletic director during this period of transition. I am incredibly grateful for her efforts.”

A press conference for the media will be held Friday afternoon. More details will be released Thursday. Media will have an opportunity to interview Saal and Muma following the press conference. 

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