GREENWOOD, Ind. – Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) Commissioner Christopher Ragsdale has announced that he will retire from his position on June 30, 2018. Ragsdale was selected as the HCAC's second Commissioner in July of 2008 and is completing his 10th year with the conference.
During Commissioner Ragsdale's tenure at the HCAC, he has played a fundamental role in the conference's growth and development, sportsmanship initiative, and policy implementation. The conference has increased its championship sport sponsorship with the addition of four sports under Ragsdale's leadership. In 2011, the conference welcomed Men's and Women's Indoor Track and Field to the championship list. During the 2017-18 academic year the HCAC will host the inaugural Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving championships increasing the total number of championship sports to 20 within the conference under Ragsdale's guidance.
Chris has also been an integral part in the development of the Men's and Women's Ohio River Lacrosse Conference (ORLC). His vision lead to the inception and partnership with the President's Athletic Conference (PAC) began in 2014.
"During his decade of leadership, Commissioner Ragsdale has clearly elevated the HCAC's profile and public recognition, while also ensuring that it remains true to its purpose of building an athletics conference that ultimately supports the educational mission of its ten member colleges and universities," said Bluffton University president Dr. James M. Harder, who currently chairs the HCAC Council of Presidents. "Chris has guided the careful development of additional sport opportunities for both female and male athletes within the HCAC, while working effectively with member presidents, athletic directors, coaches and faculty athletic representatives."
"All of us who have worked with Chris over the years appreciate his deep commitment to the underlying principles of NCAA Division III athletics that seek an appropriate balance between intercollegiate athletics participation and the many other educational goals of our student athletes," Harder noted. "His lifetime of experience as a college coach, athletic director and conference commissioner has served the HCAC very well. We are grateful for the leadership he has provided in so many ways."
During a 41 year career in higher education, Ragsdale has worked at five different NCAA Division III institutions. Prior to his appointment as commissioner, Chris enjoyed a successful career as both a coach and administrator. He served as the head men's basketball coach at both Alma College and Nazareth College taking two teams to the National Small College Athletic Association Final Four in 1990 and 1991, and serving as the head coach of a NSCAA All-Star team that played in Antigua in 1990. For 22 years of his illustrious career he filled the role of Director of Athletics at Nazareth College, Elmhurst College, and the University of LaVerne. At each of Ragsdale's stops, he was able to use his creative and innovative leadership skills in the development of program growth and the development of new facilities.
"I have been fortunate that in each of my positions I was able to work with and for people who shared my vision and commitment to the growth and development of student-athletes by supporting intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the student-athlete experience," Commissioner Ragsdale stated.
Additionally, Chris has been actively involved with the NCAA governance having previously served on the NCAA Division III Men's Golf Committee, Football Committee, and Membership Committee. In his tenure as the commissioner, he represented the HCAC while serving as a member of the NCAA Division III Management Council, Strategic Planning and Finance Committee, Membership Committee and Chair of the sub-committee for Playing and Practice Seasons.
Louise McCleary, Director of Division III at the NCAA said, "Chris has been a long-time athletics administrator as a director of athletics and more recently as the commissioner of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. I had the pleasure of working more closely with Chris during his four-year stint on the NCAA Division III Management Council. I found Chris to be thoughtful, prepared, engaged and always acted in the best interest of the membership. He had a significant leadership role with the division's playing and practice season review during the 2016 NCAA Convention Division III Issues Forum. Further, this summer, he held the conference's first-ever Women in Athletics Leadership Symposium. Chris provided leadership and worked tirelessly to make the day-long event a tremendous success for the approximately 70 female administrators in attendance. It has been a pleasure and honor working with Chris. Division III will miss him and I wish him all the best in retirement."
Further, Commissioner Ragsdale has participated with numerous focus groups for the NCAA as he served as a facilitator for the NCAA Student-Athlete Leadership forum and has been a panelist at the NCAA Career Forum, Women's Leadership Symposium, and the Division III FAR Institute.
"In his tenure as Commissioner of the HCAC, Chris Ragsdale has raised the visibility of the conference and its members, through his participation on the NCAA DIII Management Council, his effective use of NCAA resources, and his work to facilitate legislation. He has contributed to the development of its constituents by supporting and encouraging their participation in programs, such as the FAR Fellows Institute and various leadership events, several of which he organized, and by providing resources for effective and diverse campus activities. He has streamlined the hardship waiver process, making it possible for the Faculty Athletics Representatives to address requests on line, thus reducing the volume of paper originally required. He has enhanced the Student-Athlete experience by facilitating the Conference SAAC and its annual Special Olympics bowling event, providing financial support for Student-Athletes to attend the NCAA National Convention, attending their competitions throughout the conference, and providing avenues for celebrating their academic and athletic achievements. Chris has, to borrow a well-known tribute: "taken the HCAC to the next level." I will miss seeing him and Cindy at NCAA and conference events," said Mount St. Joseph Faculty Athletic Representative Georgana Taggart.
During his time as Commissioner of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, Chris has worked diligently on conference partnerships and programming initiatives. In August of 2017, the HCAC hosted its first Women in Athletics – Leadership Symposium. Chris has advanced the HCAC as a pioneer in the community serving as a conference-wide partner with Samaritan's Feet International and Special Olympics. The HCAC is the only conference nationally serving alongside Samaritan's Feet and is the only conference to hold a unified championship with Special Olympics.
Mike Furnish, CEO of Special Olympics said, "Chris has worked with us at Special Olympics for the past seven years as we've developed an exemplary NCAA Div. III partnership. He brings an unabashed commitment to the best interests of HCAC athletes and institutions, while also embracing the athletes of Special Olympics like they are his own. It is leadership like his that creates a better future for young people in both of our organizations!"
Christopher Ragsdale received his bachelor's degree in Health, Physical Education and Recreation from Bowling Green State University in 1972 and his master's in Physical Education from Bowling Green in 1976.
A national search for the next Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Commissioner will be forthcoming with the goal of a transition in the summer of 2018.
Other Remarks from Colleagues:
President McFadden, Manchester University: "As a new president in 2014, I really appreciated the way Chris brought me up to speed on issues involving the HCAC. More than that, though, I valued his counsel on the intricacies of DIII athletics. It can be challenging to balance all that goes into giving student-athletes a great experience at this level, and Chris's insights help us find that right balance."
President Conwell, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology: "Although I am saddened by Chris Ragsdale leaving the role of Commissioner of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, I, along with the other members of the HCAC President's Council, also recognize that if anyone has earned the right to enjoy the next phase in his life, it is Chris. He has brought to the HCAC a level of visibility, professionalism and enthusiasm that is not commonly found in Division III athletics. He will be missed, not only for his efforts in representing the HCAC for the last 10 years, but for the recognition and prominence he brought to the HCAC and each of its member institutes."
Doyle Lucas, Faculty Athletic Representative at Anderson University: "It's been a privilege to serve under Commissioner Ragsdale's leadership in the HCAC. I've appreciated Chris and his ability to both focus on the particular issues within our conference but also keep us well informed about the larger issues in the NCAA and in Division III. His leadership has allowed us as individual conference members to know that we matter to the conference and that the HCAC matters to the NCAA as well. His "hands on" approach to leadership demonstrated by his personal attendance at many of our athletic contests has allowed me to get to know him very well and his friendship is and will continue to be important to all of us."
Marcie Taylor, Director of Athletics at Anderson University: "Chris Ragsdale has been a strong proponent of the Division III philosophy, emphasizing academics and athletics. He has exhibited a strong passion for the HCAC and for the student-athletes in our conference, while at the same time raising the visibility of the HCAC through his service on NCAA committees. Chris's commitment to our league and deep respect for the academic mission of the member schools has been exemplary. We are grateful for his service and congratulate him on a job well done."
Lynn Hall, Director of Athletics at Hanover College: "Commissioner Ragsdale has always been an advocate for whatever is in the best interest of the student-athlete. I have found Chris to be a good listener who cares about what is going on at each HCAC institution. He has been tremendously helpful in getting NCAA interpretations and guiding decisions concerning athletic programs. He has been a good advisor to me and I will miss that personal interaction with him once he retires."
Rick Espeset, Director of Athletics/Head Baseball Coach at Manchester University: "In Chris Ragsdale's tenure as commissioner of the HCAC he impacted student-athletes, athletic administrators, coaches and President's in so many positive ways they are difficult to name. His presence on each conference campus and at countless championship events was a sign of his commitment to the HCAC and our student-athletes. Chris had a tremendous ability to put the student-athlete experience at the top of his list while balancing the desires of athletic administrators, FAR's, coaches and Presidents. His commitment to the student-athlete experience and creating new ways to enhance that experience plus, impact people outside the HCAC was never more evident than in his work with Special Olympics and creating the Unified bowling event. This will no doubt be a part of his legacy. When Chris became commissioner the HCAC was in a good place. As he leaves, the HCAC is in an even better place."
Steve Radcliffe, Director of Athletics at Mount St. Joseph University: "Having been a member of the screening committee that recommended Chris Ragsdale for the position of HCAC Commissioner and as a colleague since, I have seen how Chris manages, leads and responds to a variety of situations and issues in intercollegiate athletics. He has provided our conference with outstanding leadership and communication during his tenure. I will miss our regular chats in addition to the normal business of the conference and wish him well in retirement."