‘We are one team:’ Kevin Saal makes first public statements as athletic director

President+Rick+Muma+presents+a+Shocker+jersey+to+new+athletic+director+Kevin+Saal.

Courtesy of Wichita State University's livestream

President Rick Muma presents a Shocker jersey to new athletic director Kevin Saal.

WSU’s new Athletic Director, Kevin Saal took the stand Friday afternoon in Charles Koch Arena to answer the Wichita State community’s questions.

As Saal took the stand, President Rick Muma welcomed him with a customized Shocker basketball jersey.

“It’s great to be home,” Saal said. “I’ve enjoyed spending some time thinking about and preparing for our conversations in the passion with which our former student athletes hold in this institution and our athletics department is admirable. I know we will have great partnerships as we move forward.”

The press conference began with President Rick Muma’s brief welcome and thanks to those involved in the athletics department search for a new AD. The committee was composed of Angela Buckner, Lynn Nichols, Nate Robertson, John Rolfe, Clay Stoldt and Evan Wessle.

Prior to Saal’s hiring, senior athletic director and senior women’s administrator Sarah Adams acted as interim AD. In May, Adams quickly stepped up to the spot of Darron Boatright, who was terminated without cause.

“I’ve learned a lot from (Sarah) about the department over the last few weeks and it’s been very invaluable to me as we move forward,” Muma said.

According to Muma, Saal was selected as the new athletic director because of his extensive experience and proven record of athletic leadership. At Murray State, Saal saw through two athletic realignments, an increase in APR and numerous post-season play appearances. 

“I have the greatest confidence that his forward thinking vision will propel Wichita State’s athletic programs to new heights,” Muma said. “Allowing our student athletes and our teams to achieve their full potential.”

Having two educators as parents, Saal said his family taught him four concepts: honesty, transparency, hard work and ethical conduct. While preparing for a potential position at WSU, Saal worked with these concepts to create the “Shocker Way.”

Saal’s said his goal is to give back to young minds. This was a major factor when he chose a career in the education field. His entire life has been involved in higher education two of his insparations included his mother and father. His mother served in the college of arts and science as an advisor and his father a psychology professor.

In Saal’s plan — that he calls “The Shocker Way” — he outlines a set of core values: character, integrity, knowledge and stewardship. 

“We are going to take a deep dive into every single one of our 15 sports programs,” Saal said. “We’re going to gain a collective understanding of the gaps between our current state in each program and a championship state. It’s important for us to understand what that pathway looks like, and what those key metrics are for us to achieve championships. We’re going to match resources to expectations as we journey that path.”

“The Shocker Way” holds two pieces. First, Saal said student athletes will be developed in four different areas: as a student, a person, a player and a professional. Second, competitive excellness through championships.

“[We want to] Commit to our student athletes,” Saal said. “That we will create a scenario that represents the best four years of your life. We owe you that transformative first-class experience. I cannot wait to get to know our student athletes.”

Saal said he wishes to create consistent winning programs. He explained how in 10 years WSU placed 130 out of 358 Division I institutions in the NACTA Leerfield Director’s Cup. The new goal is to get WSU in the top 100 and continue to progress.

While Saal wants to create a successful athletic department, he also wants to give back to the community and to his student athletes.

“For us, the finish line is not just graduation,” Saal said. “Our objective in athletics will be to push for employment and full-time jobs.”

While there are 15 sports programs at WSU, Saal said each sport must work together as one to create a top tier experience at Wichita State. 

“We have 15 sports programs, but we are one team,” Saal said.