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When Joe Castiglione came to Oklahoma, he inherited one of the most storied programs in college athletics, and he set about the business of making it better.
Some who would argue that the past 15 years represent the best of the best. With eight national championships and 60 conference titles, including seven in the 2012-13 academic year, during his tenure, Castiglione’s record is certainly one of great merit. An all-time best finish of seventh in the annual Director’s Cup standings following the 2012-13 academic year adds to the Sooner story. So does the kind of academic performance that produced a combined grade point average of more than 3.00 among the nearly 600 OU student-athletes and a record 151 graduates in 2013.
A place where competitive dreams come true and academic excellence are the expectations, not the exceptions, has been created at OU by Castiglione with the full support of OU President David L. Boren and OU’s Board of Regents.
The 11th director of athletics at OU, Castiglione arrived on the Sooner campus in summer of 1998 and what he found was nothing like what we see today. He made a number of changes, and, in the process, created a team of administrators, coaches and support staff who pursue and achieve lofty goals under the banner of ethical integrity.
Proof of the overall excellence of the program is demonstrated by the annual Learfield Director’s Cup rankings. The seventh-place finish in 2012-13 extended a four-year streak of top-15 finishes for OU. It also marked the 13th time in the 15-year Castiglione tenure that OU has ranked in the top 30.
Oklahoma’s latest finish was built through overall success in competition. OU sent all 10 spring sport teams to the postseason and a total of eight teams, led by the 2013 softball team’s national championship, finished in the top 10 throughout the season. That number included runner-up NCAA finishes by the men's and women's gymnastics as well as top-10 results from men's cross country (eighth), women's basketball (ninth), baseball (ninth), men's tennis (ninth) and women's golf (ninth).
The true measure of achievement for Castiglione and, by extension, the department’s coaches and staff, is measured in the success of the student-athletes in relation to the department’s mission statement “Inspiring champions today … Preparing leaders for tomorrow.” Castiglione believes that excellence on the field of completion should correlate with the classroom. OU student-athletes recorded a cumulative GPA over 3.00 for the 2012-13 academic year, a first. In addition, 10 Sooner programs recorded a perfect 1,000 APR, tied for best in the Big 12.
Since arriving at OU, Castiglione has insisted that daily and long-term decisions be made in a financially responsible manner. The department has closed the books in the black in each of the last 15 years, making it one of the few Division I programs which remain totally self-sustaining. His understanding of how the department fits into the University’s academic mission led to a decision to increase the direct support provided by the department on an annual basis. The most recent demonstration of that commitment led to a partnership with President Boren’s office that eliminated the admission fee at OU’s internationally known Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. Through direct and indirect support, OU Athletics provides more than $8 million annually to OU’s academics budget.
Facility improvement and construction at athletics facilities has been carried out at a record pace and Castiglione takes pride in the fact that those improvements have been paid for with private money. The most recent facility is the $75 million Headington Hall, which provides housing for the general student population as well as student-athletes. The state-of-the-art building opened in August 2013 and makes OU the leader in providing an engaging community living option for OU students.
Castiglione is quick to give full credit to the student-athletes and coaches, the staff, OU President Boren, the OU Board of Regents, the donors and the fans for the success experienced during his tenure. It was that commitment to a team approach emphasis that was one of the many qualities that that the search committee recognized when they recommended Castiglione to university administration in April of 1998 after an outstanding administrative career at Missouri.
In recognition of the many achievements of his tenure, Castiglione was named National Athletic Director of the Year in May 2009 by the Sports Business Journal. In June, the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame named him the 2013 recipient of the John L. Toner Award, presented annually by the NFF to an athletic director who has demonstrated superior administrative abilities and shown outstanding dedication to college athletics and particularly college football.
His peers have honored him as well. In November 2012, the United States Sports Academy named him the winner of the Carl Maddox Sports Management Award. In October 2004, the Bobby Dodd Foundation named him Athletics Director of the Year. In 2003, he was inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators Hall of Fame. In June 2001, he received the General Robert R. Neyland Athletic Director Award for lifetime achievement from the All-American Football Foundation. The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) named him Central Region AD of the Year in 2000.
The department received the 2007 PRISM Award, presented by the School of Sports Management at the University of Massachusetts. OU was just the second Division I winner and all of the programs recognized by the selection panel were started under Castiglione’s leadership with the full support of university administration.
The achievement that may bring him the most pride came in May 2007 when he completed a master’s of education degree from OU. Subsequently, he became an adjunct professor in the College of Education, teaching graduate classes in Marketing, Development and Leadership in Higher Education. He was recently named to the Jeannine Rainbolt Colege of Education Board of Advocates.
Castiglione was instrumental in the athletics department’s major campaign, Great Expectations: The Campaign For Sooner Sports. The largest fund-raising effort in OU athletics history included projects that impact each of OU’s 21 sports and has become a national model for intercollegiate athletics. The campaign ended three years later with more than $125 million raised and that figure has grown to more than $330 million since then as funds continue to be raised for facility improvements and scholarship endowments.
Hired on April 30, 1998, Castiglione joined the Sooner family after serving as athletics director at Missouri. In his 17-year career with the Tigers, Castiglione, who was named director of athletics at Missouri on Dec. 15, 1993, was credited with rebuilding sports programs, hiring outstanding coaches, implementing an innovative master plan for facilities, inspiring record-setting increases in fund-raising and balancing the budget in each of his five years as athletics director.
A 1979 Maryland graduate, Castiglione received the University’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in April 2007. He began his career as the sports promotions director at Rice. He then worked a year as director of athletic fund-raising at Georgetown before being hired in 1981 at Missouri as director of communications and marketing.
His commitment to the success of student-athletes has gone beyond the Norman campus and he has served at the national and conference level. He was recently re-appointed to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee for a three-year term, ending after the 2015-16 season after filling a term that ended following the 2012-2013 season. He chaired the NCAA’s Football Academic Progress Rate (APR) Working Group and is currently serving on the NCAA Working Group on Collegiate Model-Rules Committee, the Gatorade Collegiate Advisory Board and the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame Board of Directors.
He served three terms as the chair of the Big 12 Board of Athletics Directors and is a past president of both the Division I-A Athletic Directors Association and NACDA. He served a four-year term on the NCAA Championship/Competition Cabinet and the NCAA Baseball Committee and is a past member of the NCAA Football Special Events Certification Committee. He has served on the NCAA Diversity Leadership Strategic Planning Committee, the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Discussion Group, the United States Olympic Committee Athlete Career and Education Strategic Working Group and the NCAA Football Issues Committee of which he now serves as chairman. A former member of the Phi Delta Theta Foundation Board of Trustees, he is a highly requested speaker at annual conventions and continuing education institutes. In November 2011, he was named to his hometown, Broward County (Fla.) Sports Hall of Fame.
His involvement in the local community has led to service with civic clubs, churches and charities, including the United Way of Norman, recently serving his third term as OU’s campus co-chair, which resulted in the highest recorded contributions ever by faculty, staff and students to the United Way of Norman’s annual campaign. He encourages student-athletes and athletics staff to participate in those efforts as well, and in 2012-13, OU Athletics representatives logged a staggering 2,561 hours of community service.
A native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Castiglione is married to the former Kristen Bartel, a 1990 graduate of the University of Missouri. They are the parents of two sons, Joseph Robert, Jr. and Jonathan Edmund.