NORMAN — Sports Illustrated writer Bruce Feldman recently conducted separate anonymous surveys of national media members and Division I athletics directors, asking the following question: Who are the best three ADs in the business?
The top vote getter in both polls? Oklahoma's Joe Castiglione.
Feldman, who released the survey results Thursday, said he awarded three points for a first-place vote, two points for a second-place vote and one point for a third-place vote. He polled 15 national print and TV media members, and 10 athletics directors. Castiglione accumulated 16 points in the media survey, edging Michigan State's Mark Hollis by one point, and was the runaway winner among his peers with 18 points in the ADs survey (TCU's Chris Del Conte was second with eight points).
Said one media member about Castiglione, "Good outward reputation and has both maintained and built within the department, with a good number of sports finding consistent success. Seems to be a quality fund-raiser as well — especially important with the resources available at their in-state rival school."
Added an athletics director, "I don't know anybody that says a bad word about Joe Castiglione and the amount of success they've had on and off the field, and what they've done there since he's been there is remarkable."
The 59-year-old Castiglione is starting his 20th year at OU and has presided over the most successful era of athletics in school history. Nearly half of the Sooners' team national championships (17 of 36) have come since Castiglione arrived in Norman in April 1998. Ten have come in the last five years, and a nation-leading seven have come over the last two years.
OU student-athletes are also flourishing in the classroom, recording a school-record 11th consecutive semester of a 3.0 or higher GPA this past spring with a department-best 3.09 mark. Seven OU programs registered a 100-percent multiyear Graduation Success Rate for the most recent reporting period, and OU's most recent multiyear GSR of 85 percent is a school record.
Oklahoma is also consistently one of only a handful of athletics departments nationally that is self-sustaining, and it has closed the books in the black each of Castiglione's 19 years. Additionally, through direct and indirect support, the athletics department provides more than $9 million annually to OU's academics budget.
Reached Thursday afternoon, Feldman said, "With his peers, I was surprised when (Castiglione's) name didn't come up, just because I heard it so often. He's so respected in the business, he handles himself well and he checks all the boxes in terms of being good externally and being regarded internally. They just have such an admiration for him, which was different than anyone (else)."
Added Feldman, "Just as somebody who has covered sports for quite a while, I'm not surprised by some of these comments (about Castiglione), just because the personality he has is one of a very, very approachable guy. You can have people who try to study that, but I think some of that is in his nature. I can see how that helps him with the national media, and I'm sure it helps him relating to coaches and to boosters and people in terms of development, and getting a consensus and getting people on board. It seems like it comes very natural to him and I think that resonates with people because they don't think it's fake."