Growing up in St. Louis, cheering on the Cardinals is nothing new for Beth Goetz, Ball State’s new athletic director.

“I grew up in a baseball town,” Goetz said. “I always tell everybody I do not have one single childhood memory without the sound of Jack Buck on the radio in the background calling a game.”

As soon as she was old enough, Goetz tried every organized sport she could — volleyball, softball, basketball — before figuring out soccer was the right fit for her.

“At some point, it just kind of chose me,” she said. “You figure out you’re a little more talented in one sport more than another. I was probably a junior in high school when that started to become a little clearer.”

It was then that Goetz began to realize she could use sports as a way to continue her education at a collegiate level, eventually securing a scholarship at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. There, she studied to be a therapist and played stopper on the soccer team.

“I tell the teams all the time that they wouldn’t even know what it is because the lingo changes all the time,” Goetz said. “But really, it’s defensive center-mid.”

Goetz enjoyed her time on the team but never thought it would be a career path for her. However, when she decided to get her master’s degree in counseling, she secured a graduate assistant position with the team.

Before Ball State

Working camps and clinics, Goetz served as an assistant coach for the Division II team before landing a role as the head coach.

“The head coach left and I just sort of fell into having an opportunity to be the head coach there,” Goetz said.  “I don’t think I thought, ‘Hey, this is what I’m doing forever,’ because I was still working on my master’s degree, but I got in and I enjoyed it.”

Goetz earned her degree, but suddenly, counseling didn’t seem like the right career path for her.

“I loved coaching, being at a small school gives you an opportunity to learn all sides of the business. You’re teaching a class, I was mowing the field and painting lines so my team could practice and compete on it.”

After a 12-year coaching stint at UMSL, Goetz gained an interest in the administrative side of sports, which led her to the associate athletic director position at Butler University.

After serving at Butler for five years, Goetz became the deputy athletics director at the University of Minnesota, eventually serving as the interim director of athletics. Her last role before coming to Ball State was as the chief operating officer at the University of Connecticut, a role she held for two years.

Goetz said her roles at each of the universities helped her prepare for her new one at Ball State.

“Each of them has contributed a great deal,” she said. “You don’t have to have been a coach to be in administration but I really rely on that experience and I think it allows me to connect differently with coaches because I’ve been in their shoes.

“You get such a wide array of experiences; you’re exposed to different leadership styles and different institutions and different situations and you take all those experiences with you.”

Being a role model

Goetz was hired in May after former athletic director Mark Sandy announced his retirement. After a national search, President Geoffrey Mearns selected Goetz, noting her extensive leadership experience and passion for academic and competitive greatness.

"What I appreciate most about Beth is that she believes athletics is part of the overall educational experience for college students," Mearns said when Goetz was hired. "She will instill a culture of excellence in Ball State athletics that will infuse pride and passion in our students, our alumni and our fans as we embark on our second century.”

Goetz is only the second female athletic director in Ball State’s history. The first was Andrea Seger who served from 1995-2002. After serving as the women’s athletic director for 12 years, the school combined men’s and women’s athletic departments, and Seger got the job as director over both departments.

Goetz, who is the only other female athletic director in the Mid-American Conference beside Western Michigan’s Kathy Beauregard, said she recognizes how unique it is to be in her position.

“I always had awareness that there weren’t as many women engaged in sport,” Goetz said. “We all want to see ourselves in our role models and that’s why it’s so important in leadership that you have a great diversity of individuals from gender, from race, from background because you want to see yourself in the roles that you can become.”

Upon her hiring, Goetz announced she will donate 50 percent of her bonuses each year to different student athlete organizations after being inspired by Mearns and his wife Jennifer’s commitment to donate back to the institution.  

“I think good leaders lead by example and I think his commitment to the institution was to say, ‘Hey, I’m committed and how can I really demonstrate my commitment,’” she said. “It was really as simple as looking and saying, ‘Look at the leader of our institution.’ He paved the way and demonstrated a way to do that.”

‘Poised to make strides’

Now, nearly two months into the job, Goetz said she has enjoyed the reception she’s received both on campus and off.

“Every place is only as special as people and that’s what you notice right out of the gate,” she said. “That stands out to you right away that everyone is invested in the success. For us, in the context of sport, you want to be part of a great team because you’re only going to be as good as those that you’re surrounded by.”

In her role, Goetz said she has three main goals: support the students academically, help them compete at the highest level they can for as long as they can and develop them as student leaders.

With the support of the head coaches, Goetz said she is ready to make her mark on the athletic program by building on its strong history.

“I think you can look back across our sports and see success in each of them at different moments of time,” she said. “We’ve had some great moments of success but we can make strides in that area. I think we’re poised to make strides in that area. That’s about getting the right leaders in the right places and building a culture of success that’s sustainable.”

Contact Brynn Mechem with comments at bamechem@bsu.edu or on Twitter @BrynnMechem.