Gary D. Walters '67, The Ford Family Director of Athletics
Gary D. Walters, who in a five-decade career as a student-athlete, coach, administrator and NCAA leader has established his voice as one of the most respected in college athletics, is in his 20th year as Director of Athletics at Princeton University. Walters has announced that he will be stepping down at the conclusion of the 2013-14 academic year.
His leadership has been characterized by a commitment to the student-athlete experience coupled with overwhelming success on the field, a duality captured in his motto for the Department of Athletics: "Education Through Athletics™ ... An Unmatched Tradition Of Athletic Success."
Walters oversees a department that has won 214 Ivy League championships in his tenure, a total that is 82 more than the next highest Ivy school during that time. In the last three years, Princeton has won 37 Ivy League championships, including a league-record 15 in 2010-11.
Princeton also won four NCAA championships - field hockey, men's and women's combined fencing, women's individual saber fencing and men's indoor track and field distance medley relay - and finished 35th in the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup, making Princeton the only FCS school in the Top 50.
In addition to overseeing Princeton’s success, Walters also served a five-year term on the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee and spent the 2006-07 academic year as the committee chair.
Walters is a 1967 Princeton graduate who played point guard on the Tigers’ 1965 NCAA Final Four men’s basketball team, making him one of just two men who have played in the Final Four and gone on to be chair of the Division I committee. As chair of the committee, he oversaw an NCAA tournament that had all four No. 1 seeds and three of four No. 2 seeds reach the Elite Eight and three No. 1 seeds and a No. 2 seed reach the Final Four.
His national basketball work also included serving on the College Basketball Partnership, an initiative of NCAA president Myles Brand that was led by and featured major Division I coaches, administrators, and stakeholders.
Walters has led an athletic department that has won the Ivy League’s unofficial all-sports standings and has produced at least one individual team or national champion every year of his tenure.
His legacy at Princeton will include his ability to identify young head coaching talent, one that has seen him hire no fewer than 17 coaches with no previous Division I head coaching experience who have gone on to win Ivy League or national championships.
Princeton teams have won 30 national championships in his first 19 years as director of athletics. During that time Princeton has fielded 33 teams in Ivy League sports, and 32 of those have won at least one league championship. In addition, 35 of the 38 Princeton varsity teams have played in postseason championship competition. A total of six Princeton teams have competed in the NCAA Final Four of their sport since he became AD, including four in the calendar year of 2004, tying Princeton with UCLA and Stanford for the most in Division I.
Princeton also finished in the Top 25 in the Directors’ Cup in 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2002, making Princeton the only non-scholarship school ever to do so. Princeton is the highest-finishing non-scholarship school every year but two in the history of the Directors’ Cup, and it has finished in the Top 40 of the Cup standings 12 times while never finishing below 63rd.
In addition to this on-field success, Walters has overseen a nearly complete renovation of athletic facilities, most notably the demolition of Palmer Stadium and the building of Princeton Stadium and Weaver Track and Field Stadium in its place. Other projects have included the beautiful Roberts Stadium soccer complex, the addition of Princeton's first FieldTurf competition and practice fields, a renovation of the Lenz Tennis Center, the new squash courts in Jadwin Gym, the addition of 16 locker rooms to the Caldwell Field House, the renovation and expansion of the boathouse to the Shea Rowing Center and aesthetic improvements to both Baker Rink and DeNunzio Pool.
Currently, Princeton is near the end of a two-year project to expand and renovate Class of 1952 Stadium, resulting in a field hockey-only facility on Bedford Field adjacent to Sherrerd Field, the home of Tiger lacrosse.
Walters’ dynamic leadership has been acclaimed and nationally profiled in such journals as Sports Illustrated, Sports Business Journal, Athletic Management, The New York Times Magazine, Wall Street Journal and Athletic Business Magazine.
Walters has adopted a management philosophy based on the ideals of character-based coaching and the true student-athlete on campus. Toward that end, he created the Princeton Academic Athletic Fellows program, which links academic, athletic and social pursuits by identifying faculty members and administrators to serve in support roles for each team. Walters also created the Princeton Varsity Club, a unique support group geared toward providing broad-based assistance for the Tigers’ 38 intercollegiate teams while stressing the ideals of performance, values and community. The PVC’s Board of Directors is comprised of some of the most respected names in the Princeton athletic family, and among its other endeavors has been a speaker series that began with an address at Princeton by NCAA president Brand.
Walters has spearheaded and implemented a gender-neutral compensation structure for coaches and has overseen the development of the University’s Office of Athletic Communications and Office of Athletic Relations. Among his other projects have been the planning and organization of the 1996-97 Faculty Symposiums on Athletics and the development of the Varsity Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
He has also seen seven members of his administrative staff become Directors of Athletics or Division I conference commissioners, most recently Erin McDermott at the University of Chicago in August 2013.
Walters has served as the chairman of the Ivy Committee on Administration and is an ethics fellow for the Institute of International Sport. He was recently named to the advisory board for the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern, an organization that in September 2007 named him as one of the "100 Most Influential Sports Educators in America."
A three-year starter as a point guard on Princeton’s basketball team, Walters was featured with teammate Chris Thomforde, now the president of Moravian College, on the cover of Sports Illustrated in February 1967 while leading that year’s team to a 25-3 record, an NCAA tournament berth and a Fifth place finish in the national polls. Walters subsequently became the youngest head basketball coach in NCAA history in 1970, when he took over the duties at Middlebury College. He then spent three years as head coach at Union College (where he coached former Tiger head basketball coach Bill Carmody) before returning to Princeton as an assistant coach in 1973. Walters also served as head coach at both Dartmouth College – where he was named New England Coach of the Year in 1976 - and Providence College. In 1980 Walters was selected to coach at the U.S. Olympic Trials. He also served as a color analyst on Big East men’s basketball telecasts.
He joined Kidder, Peabody & Co. in 1981 as an investment representative. He left as a senior vice president and partner in 1990 to become senior partner of Woolf Associates Sports Management in Boston, and he then became managing director of Seaward Management, an investment advisory firm, in 1992. He was a three-year participant in the executive education program sponsored by the Securities Industry Association conducted at the Wharton School of Business. While at Kidder he served for three years, one as chair, on the New England NASD district business conduct committee, the regulatory body responsible for enforcing security regulations in over-the-counter markets.
Walters, who played high school basketball at Reading (Pa.) High under longtime Princeton coach Pete Carril, helped Princeton to two Ivy League titles and the 1965 NCAA Final Four. He was a first-team All-Ivy League selection and received the team’s B.F. Bunn Trophy, “awarded to that member of the varsity team who through sportsmanship, play and influence has contributed most to the sport at Princeton.”
Academically, Walters graduated from Princeton in 1967 with a BA degree in Psychology. As an undergraduate he co-authored, with Psychology professors Marvin Karlins and Thomas Coffman, a study entitled “On the Fading of Social Stereotypes: Studies in Three Generations of College Students,” which was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1969. This study has become widely cited in social psychology research as being a part of the “Princeton Trilogy,” sequential studies that focused on ethnic stereotyping.
Walters and his wife, Susan, have three children: Liza, Nick and Matt. Liza graduated from Brown in 2003, while Nick graduated from Princeton in 2005 and Matt graduated from Union in 2011.