Athletic Director: Division Changer

by Associate Sports Editor Hunter Anderson

Mark Linder, UNA’s director of athletics, is one of the men responsible for the change from Division II to Division I sports. He took office August 2007 and worked to improve the university for 11 years.

Linder holds many responsibilities on campus. If it involves athletes, athletic department staff, facilities or university sports, it involves him. His tasks range from athlete grade checks to massive projects, such as helping oversee the renovation of Flowers Hall.

“My days are different every single day, and that’s why I love the job so much,” Linder said. “No day is the same. I come in and there’s a lot of paperwork that needs to be done, but I think that’s the reason I enjoy the job so much.”

Linder said he did not always plan to get involved in sports management. He said he originally went to school to become an eye doctor, explaining why he holds a Bachelor of Science. Linder was a student-athlete for four years at Wayne State College in Nebraska, where he met his wife, before accepting a position as a volunteer coach after graduating in 1991.

The Gadsden native also earned a master’s degree in athletic administration from the same college and proceeded to work there for nine years in coaching positions, teaching chemistry and working in athletic counseling. Following that, he joined Missouri Western State, where he worked eight years before becoming the director of athletics in 2003.

“Then, the University of North Alabama job came open,” Linder said. “I applied and was fortunate enough to land the job here 11 years ago.”

This will be Linder’s first experience directing Division I athletics.  He said a lot of daily operations in the department are going to change, with staff members making more decisions. Additionally, he plans to increase fundraising opportunities to get the university money and resources required to be competitive with other schools.

“My hope is that this change to Division I is a university move,” Linder said. “When you look at the numbers, when you look at the research, universities that have made this move, their enrollment has grown. This is part of our enrollment management strategy as we move forward. The cost of running a university keeps going up, yet our state funding doesn’t keep pace with that. We can’t keep putting that on the shoulders of our current students.”

He said the goal is to use this chance to increase enrollment. An increase in students means an increase in money from tuition and an increase in customers, which removes a need for a tuition increase. He hopes these actions benefit the students as well as the university.