Academy introduces new athletic director

Academy athletic director
U.S. Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson sits with newly-named Academy Athletic Director Mr. James Knowlton at a press conference in Clune Arena Jan. 21, 2015. The press conference officially announced Knowlton’s acceptance of the position. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Gutierrez)
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Academy introduces new athletic director

Posted 1/22/2015   Updated 1/22/2015 Email story   Print story

by Amber Baillie
U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

1/22/2015 – U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The Academy’s new director of athletics was officially announced by Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson here Wednesday at Clune Arena.

James Knowlton became the 11th director here during a press conference with Academy personnel, community members and local media, answering questions regarding his experience, vision and goals for the department.

Knowlton replaces Dr. Hans Mueh, who is retiring Friday after 10-plus years as the Academy’s athletic director. Knowlton comes here from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in New York, where he served as athletic director for seven years and will begin his duties at the Academy March 23.

“This is an important day for our Air Force’s Academy as we introduce the newest member of our senior leadership team,” General Johnson said. “Jim was selected following a deliberate, multi-step process that leveraged social media, traditional ads, emails and phone calls to reach across the nation to a diverse list of athletic groups and attract top talent.” 

General Johnson said it was Knowlton’s record, experience, presence and vision for the future that made him right for the position.

“Jim brings a clear-eyed perspective, seasoned experience as a modern athletic director and a deep and abiding understanding of our unique military culture,” she said. “He is clearly ready to lead our department at this important inflection point for our Air Force and Academy.”

Knowlton thanked General Johnson for having the trust and confidence to afford him a great opportunity to serve the Academy and community.

“I’m excited to get started,” he said. “During the interview process General Johnson articulated her vision for the Academy and I felt it was a perfect fit for who I am. She has continued to improve the Academy and it’s a real honor for me to be a part of this team today.”

Knowlton said he plans to focus on people, platforms and resources during his first 90 days here.

“I’m going to try to get to know the coaches and administrators in the athletic department,” he said. “That’s very important to me. I’m also going to look at facilities here to see what we have, what we need and where we’re going both from a renovation, construction and new construction perspective. I’m also going to be looking at our revenue, things we need for cadets and the best ways to generate revenue. My first 90 days here are going to give me some keen insight into where we are and what we need.”

Knowlton is a West Point graduate who was an intercollegiate athlete and later served as an active duty Army Airborne Ranger. He went on to command a battalion at Fort Carson’s 4th Infantry Division, leading 750 soldiers, and was on the West Point academic faculty. There, he served as an assistant athletic director and interim athletic director, supervising 25 intercollegiate athletic programs with over 1,000 student athletes.

“I think the things I’ve done in my life have provided me tools to be a successful athletic director at the Academy,” Knowlton said. “Managing a large organization with a critical mission and a lot of young men and women who are our nation’s finest, really helped me understand how to motivate, organize and lead a winning team. I think that’s the same thing we’re looking for at the Academy.”

Knowlton said the passion and dedication he’s already witnessed among athletic coaches here is encouraging.

“Those are the kind of teammates I’m really excited about,” he said. “I’m going to spend a lot of time with the department during my first 90 days really asking them, ‘What is working well here?’ and ‘What areas can we work to improve?”‘

The local community is an important part of the team and the Academy is an important part of their team, Knowlton said. 

“I think my job (as athletic director) is to get out in the community, embrace community leaders and be visible,” he said. “The community is important and a great part of the fan base and supporters of the Academy. I’m really looking forward to meeting community members.”

Knowlton said he looks forward to watching cadets excel in the classroom, compete for championships, win them the right way and go on to serve as ambassadors for the nation.

“I think we can be a premiere team across the board in our sports here and my job is to find what out it takes for us to do that,” Knowlton said.

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