Long-time wrestling and college sports leader Bob Bowlsby named Interim Athletic Director at Univ. of Northern Iowa

by UNI Athletics

Bob Bowlsby, hired as Interim Athletics Director at UNI. (Photo by University of Northern Iowa Athletics)

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook announced on Wednesday that retired Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has agreed to serve as Interim Athletic Director for the Panthers. The Waterloo, Iowa native has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in collegiate sports after honing his skills as UNI's Athletic Director from 1983-91.

He was inducted into the University of Northern Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame in 2004 and currently serves as a member of the steering committee for UNI's $250 million Our Tomorrow Campaign that has raised over $243 million to date. Bowlsby's hire on an interim basis is subject to approval by the Iowa Board of Regents.

Nook indicated that Bowlsby will serve in this role until a national search to fill the position on a full-time basis is completed and that individual can begin their duties in Cedar Falls.

"On behalf of the entire UNI community, we are extremely grateful to Bob Bowlsby for agreeing to lead UNI Athletics on an interim basis," Nook said. "Bob's passion for our institution and his dedication to Panther Athletics are both well documented, as well as his extensive resume of expertise in collegiate athletics. Bob was the first individual that came to mind when this opening arose and we are thankful that his wife, Candice, their children and grandchildren have agreed to 'loan' him to us in this interim role until our next Director of Athletics is in place."

Bowlsby served as UNI's Assistant Director of Athletics for Facilities from 1981-83 before replacing Stan Sheriff as Athletics Director, directing UNI's 19-sport program and serving as administrative head of the UNI-Dome. During his tenure Bowlsby managed UNI's entry into the Missouri Valley Conference and increased the program's fundraising by 400%.

"Very few opportunities could have lured me out of retirement, even on a short-term basis," Bowlsby indicated. "Plenty of people have contacted me, but when President Nook called I certainly listened intently. The invitation to help set up the next Director of Athletics at UNI for success was an opportunity that I simply couldn't refuse. UNI gave me such a remarkable opportunity as a young professional in collegiate athletics for which I'm eternally grateful. So much of what I learned at UNI helped guide my decisions throughout my career journey. I owe a great deal to UNI and it is my distinct pleasure to serve in this interim role until the position can be filled on a full-time basis." 

Bowlsby was appointed commissioner of the Big 12 Conference in 2012 and served in that capacity for over a decade prior to retiring in 2022. Among his many lasting contributions to that league, he played an integral role in the additions of BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston, helping solidify the Big 12's future as one of the nation's premier athletic conferences.

Bowlsby was appointed to the inaugural NCAA Division I Council in 2015. He also served as chair of the Football Oversight Committee which oversees all aspects of collegiate football and reports directly to the NCAA Division I Council. He also played a key role in the formation of the College Football Playoff that began in 2014-15, the first postseason playoff in the history of the sport.

Prior to his stint as Big 12 Commissioner, Bowlsby spent six years directing a Stanford University athletics department that claimed an unprecedented 17 consecutive Learfield Sports Directors Cups, emblematic of the top overall athletics program in the country.

Bowlsby arrived at Stanford after a 15-year stint as the Director of Athletics for the University of Iowa. In his final four years, he guided and supervised the merger of the Hawkeye men's and women's athletic departments that included 24 varsity sports. In addition, he oversaw the planning, construction and renovation of more than $100 million in campus projects at Iowa, including the refurbishing of Kinnick Stadium.

Long recognized as a national leader in intercollegiate and amateur athletics, Bowlsby was appointed to the United States Olympic Committee Board of Directors in 2007 and completed that term at the 2014 Winter Olympiad in Sochi, Russia. In 2002, President George W. Bush chose Bowlsby to be a member of the Commission on Opportunities in Athletics, which reviewed the first 30 years of Title IX.

Bowlsby previously served as president of the NCAA Division I-A Athletics Directors' Association from 2002-03 and chaired the NCAA Management Council. In addition, he has also chaired the NCAA Wrestling Committee. In 2005, he finished a five-year term on the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament Committee after serving as the chairman in 2003-04.

A former NCAA student-athlete himself, Bowlsby was a four-year letterman in wrestling at Minnesota State University (Moorhead). He served as captain during his senior year when he won a conference title. In 2013, he received that school's Alumni Achievement Award and was also named to the NCAA 40th Anniversary Tribute Team, which recognized the 40th anniversary of NCAA Division II competition. Bowlsby was inducted into MSUM's Sports Hall of Fame in 1998 and is a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame's Class of 2023.

Bowlsby earned his bachelor's degree from Minnesota State University (Moorhead) in 1975 and his master's degree from the University of Iowa in 1978. He and his wife, Candice, are parents of four adult children and have been blessed with 10 grandchildren.