Dakota Wesleyan University’s Jon Hart enters his fourth season as the athletic director of his alma mater, and 2018-19 was another banner for the Tigers.
Last season, the Tiger basketball teams again qualified for the national tournament, Kamber Lamer was a two-time national champ in track and field, the baseball team qualified for the conference tourney and the volleyball squad had their second winning season in the past three years.
This all off the heels of the DWU women’s basketball team capturing the 2017-18 national championship.
As for the future, Hart hopes to sustain the momentum and keep the Tigers competitive in the Great Plains Athletic Conference, while also enhancing the student-athlete experience.
As he’s set to begin his fourth season as the AD, he recently talked with The Daily Republic about his first three seasons leading the Tigers and his goals for the future. Below are excerpts from the interview, which was edited for length and clarity:
Q: Three seasons down as the athletic director at DWU. What are you most proud of and what would you consider highlights after three seasons?
A: “A lot of the highlights really pertain to just kind of maintaining where we are at and getting better in a lot of areas. We’ve seen three national titles with Kamber winning two this year and our women’s basketball team winning, too. So that’s been fun the last two years seeing that kind of success and then we really take a lot of pride with where our fundraising is at. The last two years we’ve broke records in our corporate sponsorships and our TeamMaker memberships. We are really proud of those things. One of the biggest things too is our team GPA. We are about at a 3.31. So really maintaining our priorities and doing a great job in the classroom and then community service. We have that Don Baker Award this year for the Special Olympics. So those are just a few of the highlights in this year or within the last few years.”
Q: What are some of the top priorities and goals as you head into a new season?
A: “I think some of the top priorities or main goals would be just kind of maintaining our competitiveness in a really, really good league and just expanding on that. Keeping our team GPA's where they are at. Seeking new sponsorships and acquiring new memberships. Working a little bit closer with our alumni and younger alumni -- especially. Those are definitely kind of the goals for this upcoming year.”
Q: In the past there's been talk of tennis and cheer and dance as some new sports. Where do you stand with those and any other new sports on the horizon?
A: “Those things are probably in the exploration stages. I know that cheer and dance has been one we have looked at pretty close and tennis has been one we’ve looked at pretty close and we’ve done evaluations on those things and to see how realistic they are. It all comes down to resources when you are looking at adding a sport. I think when we’ve had extra resources, we’ve liked to push those resources to our existing programs and making those better. I think our philosophy has just kind of been let’s stabilize and resource our current programs before further expanding or looking at officially adding a sport.”
Q: DWU and the Mitchell Baseball Association recently pitched putting in artificial turf at Drake Field. DWU committed money to assist in putting artificial turf at Joe Quintal Field. Any other facility upgrades on the horizon?
A: “I think it's been great to be a part of those projects, especially since every one of those is a joint-used facility. Being able to contribute to those projects and being able to contribute to those facilities to make them better has been really important to our programs. I think a near future goal would be to get a football stadium on campus. That's not necessarily a secret to anybody. We get asked that all the time and I feel like that's going to be a goal here in the near future. We have some projects we are obviously finishing up with the business building, but I think that's going to really move to the priority list as we get closer to getting those other things complete.”
Q: This is the last season of two basketball divisions in NAIA. How has the process gone as far as preparing for the merger in 2020-21?
A: “There’s going to definitely be some adjustments within the next two years. Obviously after this year we go to the one division and there’s still a lot of questions that are kind of unanswered there as far as how does the ranking system go. How do you rank 64 teams? How are you going to be able to come up with 16 different sites to host? I know they are doing a bidding process for that, but there’s just a lot of questions that kind of remain.