Photo by Tommy Rezac.

By TOMMY REZAC

St. Joseph Post

The third and final candidate for the Missouri Western athletic director job met with community members at the Fulkerson Center Thursday afternoon on campus.

Joel Lueken, who’s been the athletic director at Division II South Dakota School of Mines since 2014, says the Griffon A.D. job is a premiere DII job to have.

“I think Missouri Western is a flagship institution of Division II,” Lueken said. “Having the ability to compete for championships is very intriguing to me. I can’t see myself and my family being involved in anything other than collegiate athletics.”

Lueken and his wife, Melissa, are both Iowa natives and the chance to be closer to home is also appealing for their family.

Lueken says being a member of the prestigious MIAA conference is also part of what makes the Missouri Western job so desirable.

“They compete in what I feel is one of the best, if not the best, conference in the country in the MIAA,” he said. “Facilities here are second-to-none. Being fully funded in scholarships helps out a lot. From everything I’ve seen and heard and witnessed so far, the people are fantastic on campus and fantastic coaches and staff.”

Lueken talked a lot Thursday about marketing to the community, and having positive interactions with the campus and the city as a whole. He says there’s no reason why Missouri Western should have any less than 7,500 fans at football games.

“If you’re running entertaining and lively athletic events and you’ve got a good product on the field and on the court, people will want to come and watch,” Lueken said. “They’ll want to be involved. When you’re there, you have to captivate the audience. You have to give them what they want. It has to be entertaining.”

Lueken spent six years at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa in various capacities, including head baseball coach, admissions recruiter, assistant women’s basketball coach and other duties. He received his bachelor’s degree from Ottawa University and a master’s from Northwest Missouri State.

He points to his track record at School of Mines, an engineering and science institution in Rapid City, as a key reason to why he’d be a good fit to lead and grow Griffon athletics.

“We’ve increased our attendance, our engagement, our campus engagement, our student attendance,” he said. “Things are trending and progressing the right way and that’s what I’d like to do here.” 

Also at Mines, Lueken has increased scholarships by 62 percent and increased ticket revenue by 200 percent. In addition, scholar-athletes have maintained a 3.0 GPA or higher all six semesters and 18 in a row over the last nine years.

The Missouri Western A.D. search committee will now meet with University President Elizabeth Kennedy to decide on how to move forward with the A.D. hiring process.

An exact timeline on when Josh Looney’s replacement will be announced is not known. Looney left for Division I North Alabama in late August. 

The community heard from Franklin Pierce University athletic director Rachel Burleson Monday, and Illinois State executive associate athletic director for external affairs Dwight Merilatt on Tuesday.

Photo by Tommy Rezac.
Photo by Tommy Rezac.

You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.