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Joel Nielsen

Joel Nielsen | Dir, Athletics

Office/Department: Intercollegiate Athletics
Location: 197 Macc
Phone: 330-672-5974
Fax: 330-672-5978

Joel Nielsen was named Kent State University’s 11th Director of Athletics on March 25, 2010, arriving from the University of South Dakota with a proven track record of success.

A firm believer in continuing — and growing— the championship traditions at Kent State and an advocate of student-athletes who excel in the classroom and go on to become well-rounded citizens, the Latimer, Iowa native, has been involved at every level of intercollegiate athletics: from being a student-athlete himself, to serving as a graduate assistant, to climbing through the ranks of athletic administration.

Built on a solid base of more than 20 years of wide-ranging experience, Nielsen’s operating style is based upon cultivating an environment that provides a tremendous student-athlete experience, while providing the resources — both monetary and facility-related — for the coaches to continue to build on the successes of their respective programs. All the while, increasing the visibility of the department in the Kent community, the state of Ohio and beyond.

During his seven-year tenure at South Dakota, Nielsen, 47, spearheaded the department’s transition to Division I. He secured membership for USD football in the Great West Football Conference in 2007 and has the Coyotes on track for membership in the Summit League for all sports except football starting in 2011. Nielsen also played an active role in the organization and creation of the Great West Conference for all sports. He worked closely with the USD Foundation in developing strategic fundraising models that will provide the necessary resources for the Division I transition in addition to serving on numerous committees on campus.

Nielsen was responsible for making significant changes and introducing new departmental initiatives after his arrival in Vermillion, S.D. in 2003. He worked closely with the Athletic Review Committee in initiating a progressive and comprehensive plan for South Dakota Athletics, addressing competitiveness, funding and compliance. Nielsen worked with USD’s administration and an external licensing company to develop a new athletics logo and trademark program. He also spearheaded the relationship with Daktronics Sports Marketing to bring a $2 million scoreboard enhancement to the DakotaDome.

Before taking over at USD, Nielsen served for two-and-a-half years as Athletic Director at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, overseeing a 20-sport athletic program, which included two sports (men’s ice hockey and women’s soccer) at the Division I level.

From 1993 to 2001, Nielsen was the associate athletic director at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., where he was in charge of the administration and management of the athletic department’s external relations. Prior to Wake Forest, he was an assistant athletic director at Illinois State in Normal, Ill. (1991-92) and served as an athletic development assistant at Northern Illinois in DeKalb, Ill. (1990-91).

A doctoral candidate (Leadership and Educational Policy Studies) at Northern Illinois, Nielsen earned a B.S. degree in business finance (1985) and a M.A. degree in sports administration (1991), both from Minnesota State University, Mankato. At MSU, Nielsen played football and baseball before becoming a graduate assistant (1989-90) for head football coach Dan Runkle.

Nielsen and his wife, Sharon (who was a scholarship golfer at Northern Illinois), have three daughters: 13-year-old twins Kasey and Kelly and 11-year-old Kory.