When Joe Castiglione came to Oklahoma, he inherited one of the most storied programs in college athletics, and he set about creating a positive culture where core values, a dynamic mission and a collaborative spirit develop a world class experience for student-athletes.
Some would argue that his 17-year tenure represents the best of the best. With 10 national championships and 72 conference titles, including five in the 2014-15 academic year, during his tenure, Castiglione’s record is certainly one of great merit. Add in the record progress in the classroom for our Sooners and you get a sense of the overall excellence that Castiglione has encouraged and built.
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 and second longest serving 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.
The Sooners continue to rank among the top 25 in the annual Learfield Director’s Cup, including an all-time best of seventh in 2012-13. The 2014-15 competitive season resulted in OU’s sixth consecutive top 25 finish out of 289 teams that were ranked and the 15th in the top 30 in Castiglione’s 17 seasons at the helm.
Oklahoma’s consistent performance in the Director’s Cup has been built through overall success in competition. OU sent 19 of 21 sport teams to the postseason and a total of five teams, led by the 2015 men’s gymnastics team’s national title, finished in the top 10. That number included a runner-up NCAA finish by the men's tennis teams, a third-place finish by the women’s gymnastics team as well as top 10 finishes from men’s basketball and softball, both tied for ninth.
The true measure of achievement for Castiglione and, by extension, the department’s coaches and staff, is demonstrated 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 competition should correlate with the outstanding results from the classroom. OU student-athletes once again recorded a cumulative GPA over 3.00 for fall 2014 and spring 2015 semesters, a streak of seven consecutive semesters of a 3.00-plus GPA. The student-athletes produced a single semester GPA of 3.06 in the 2014 fall semester, tying the previous all-time best. A total of 11 Sooner programs recorded a perfect 1,000 Academic Progress Rate and all Sooner teams finished above the NCAA minimum APR score for the fifth consecutive year. Three teams, women’s golf, women’s gymnastics and women’s tennis led the Big 12 in their respective sports with their perfect multi-year APR scores of 1,000. During the year, the NCAA announced that OU’s student-athletes had established an all-time best 80 percent graduation success rate (GSR) and the GSR of 82.7 percent of OU’s teams increased or remained the same as the previous year.
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 17 years, making it one of the very 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 of 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 completion 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 understands that facilities are a key component in recruiting as well as for the thousands of Sooner fans who come to the Norman campus to cheer on their favorite team. With that knowledge, OU administrators announced a major and evolving update to the Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium Master Plan. To be carried out over the next several years, the improvements will directly affect every Sooner student-athlete and every fan who enters the historic stadium. The $160 million first phase is underway and will be completed during the 2016-17 academic year. In June of 2015, another multi-million dollar renovation to Lloyd Noble Center was announced as construction on the stadium facilities was about to begin.
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. 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. In April 2014, Castilgione received the Abe Lemons/Paul Hansen Award for Sports Excellence from Oklahoma City University.
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 Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education, teaching graduate classes in Marketing, Development and Leadership in Higher Education. He serves on the College’s Board of Advocates. He was recently recognized for his distinguished service by OU’s College of Arts & Sciences.
Castiglione was instrumental in the athletics department’s major campaign, Great Expectations: The Campaign For Sooner Sports. The then largest fund-raising effort in OU athletics history included projects that impacted 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 is now projected to grow to over $500 million 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. His career journey began 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. He will mark his 22nd year of serving student-athletes as an Athletics Director at two different institutions.
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 elected chairman of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee for the 2015-16 academic year. He also chaired the NCAA’s Football Academic Progress Rate (APR) Working Group and completed service on the NCAA Working Group on Collegiate Model-Rules Committee. He also serves on 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, his hometown recognized him by selecting him for the 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 2014-15, OU Athletics representatives logged more than 4,000 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.