Goetz had won 120 matches as head coach over the past 11 seasons after taking over for program originator Ken Hudson and added assistant athletic director and senior woman administrator to her roles during her time at UMSL. Now, she was weighing whether to leave and become assistant AD for compliance and senior woman administrator at Butler University in Indianapolis.
“I said, ‘There’s never a good time to move,’” Flanagan said. “‘If you don’t move now, you may never get this opportunity again. You need to take it.’”
A decade after heeding Flanagan’s advice, Goetz finds herself among fairly select company. She was named the new athletic director at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, in late May and officially started Monday. Ball State has only had one other female AD in its nearly 100 years playing intercollegiate sports.
Goetz is one of fewer than 40 female athletic directors at the 351 schools that make up NCAA Division I, the highest competitive classification in college sports, and one of 10 heading up a program in the high-revenue, high-stakes Football Bowl Subdivision. She takes over the Cardinals after serving as deputy AD at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and chief operating officer at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. She was also senior woman administrator at both schools.
She realizes her place in the history of women fighting for recognition in major college athletics. She also has more on her mind, like running an entire athletic department.
“I’ve had a lot of good mentors along the way that have given me growth and advancement opportunities, and there’s an awareness that not many women serve in these leadership positions,” Goetz said. “As I am focused on the day-to-day management of Ball State athletics, I hope to inspire other young women by demonstrating that this is a path they can also follow.”
Goetz did not come to UMSL with a future in athletic administration on her mind. She had just finished her collegiate soccer career – along with a bachelor’s degree in psychology – at Clemson University in South Carolina, and the north St. Louis County native enrolled in the UMSL College of Education to pursue a master’s degree in family therapy.
Her college coaches convinced her that, if she was already going back to school, why not give coaching soccer a shot as well? Goetz joined Hudson’s staff as an assistant in 1996. Within a year, Hudson had resigned and Goetz was the head coach.
“She was a great learner,” said Pat Dolan, who was UMSL’s AD from 1995-2007. “She was like a sponge. She wanted to soak everything up and learn about coaching, sports, people, how you handle them under pressure, that sort of thing. She was just an excellent human being. Her teams played really hard for her. She was very loyal to them, very fair.”
Aside from coaching soccer and earning her MEd – which she did, in 2001 – Goetz started branching out into the world of administration. The relatively small size of UMSL’s athletic department worked to her advantage: There was always work for someone who sought it out.
“I always wanted to give the young people who are very talented those opportunities to grow professionally at UMSL,” Dolan said. “That way it’s a plus-plus. They can go on and use that, or they can stay and be better versed. We became more of a team. We could rely on each other to get things done in the department.”
Goetz started learning on the fly about aspects such as compliance, student service and business operations. By the time she left, she had served as the department’s sport supervisor for baseball, softball and men’s and women’s golf, as well as occupying leadership roles within the Great Lakes Valley Conference and NCAA Division II.
Goetz was inducted into the UMSL Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.
“I had an amazing group of student-athletes that sort of grew with me,” she said. “And then just opening my eyes to the big-picture side of athletics, that was also something that took me down this path. I had a lot of opportunity and a lot of support from the folks at UMSL and in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.”
Goetz and Flanagan keep in contact. When Goetz needs advice navigating the world of college athletics administration, she can give Flanagan a call.
That guidance was especially helpful when Goetz was elevated to interim athletic director at Minnesota for nine months starting in June 2015. Goetz stepped into a sensitive situation after former AD Norwood Teague resigned amid sexual harassment allegations.
Flanagan served as interim AD at both Saint Louis University and UMSL.
“Sitting one chair over, it’s a completely different perspective,” Goetz said. “To have the opportunity to do that for such a long period of time has provided me a lot of perspective on what to expect, what it’s going to feel like and how you need to engage with so many different constituencies. It really has helped prepare me for this opportunity, without a doubt.”
Flanagan knew Minnesota was Goetz’s opportunity to show she could make a mark on a program, but without any guarantees that she’d be the full-time replacement. She also knows that college athletics can be an unforgiving business for female administrators.
“She’s coming from three very recognizable institutions that give her instant credibility,” Flanagan said. “Women have to prove themselves just a little bit more than men. She’s going to have to be successful. She’s going to be judged a lot more stringently than a male ever will be. She gets that. She knows that. You just have to be smart.”
The first thing Goetz plans to do at Ball State is listen to what the people who are already there have to say about the program: what’s going well and possible areas for improvement.
Goetz has been building up to this for more than 20 years. She was a successful college player and coach who, as an administrator, has worked with championship programs and steered a power-conference athletic department during a time of turmoil.
She’s always made the most of her opportunities.
“UMSL always has a special place in my heart,” Goetz said. “It’s wonderful to have an opportunity to serve your state institution and your home city. For them to give me an opportunity to start my career there was very meaningful and will always be really special to me. I hope that I’ll be able to take the experiences that I had there and contribute to Ball State.”