Voelz is chosen as new women’s athletic director

Lisa Remwolt

Chris Voelz was named the University’s director of women’s intercollegiate athletics Monday, pending approval of the Board of Regents, which meets Aug. 12.
Voelz, associate athletic director at the University of Oregon, was selected over 21 other candidates in a two-month, nation-wide search to fill the position vacated by Merrily Dean Baker. Baker resigned May 9 to become assistant executive director of the NCAA.
Voelz, if approved, will officially begin duties in the $72,000 position Sept. 1.
“I’m thrilled to be the women’s athletic director at Minnesota,” Voelz said. “I consider this job to be very special — one of the finest opportunities in the land for women in athletic administration.”
Minnesota is one of only a few Division I schools in the country that has an autonomous women’s athletics program.
“I’m confident that (Voelz) has the experience and creativity to continue building the strength of Minnesota’s programs for women student-athletes,” University Interim President Richard Sauer said.
Voelz, 39, has been with the University of Oregon for 10 years. She was assistant athletic director for women’s sports from 1981-83, and from 1983-85 she was assistant athletic director for all sports except men’s football, basketball and track.
She was volleyball coach from 1978 to 1986, and served as president of the American Volleyball Association at the same time Gopher volleyball coach Stephanie Schleuder served on the board of directors.
Schleuder, who was a member of the search committee, said she has developed “a lot of respect” for Voelz over the years they have worked together.
“I think she’ll bring some outstanding talents to the program,” Schleuder said. “She’ll be an excellent fund-raiser, and do a wonderful job. She’s a tremendous public speaker, and will be active in the community.”
Schleuder called Baker a “tough act to follow” but said Voelz is up to the job.
“We’re hoping she’ll hit the ground running,” Schleuder said.
Voelz will report to Sauer through Law School Dean Robert Stein.
Stein has been overseeing the men’s and women’s athletics departments since July 5, when Sauer stripped Vice President for Student Development Frank Wilderson of his supervisory duties over University athletics.
“Chris Voelz is an outstanding leader for women’s athletics in the country,” Stein said. “Under her leadership, we feel confident that our women’s intercollegiate athletics programs will reach new heights of success athletically and academically.”
Her first priority, Voelz said, is to “maintain and extend upon all that Merrily has so successfully put in place, including the legislative funding effort and private gifts to the department.”
She also wants to build on the academic and athletic success of the department.
Gopher female athletes compiled a 2.9 grade point average last year, compared to the general student body’s 2.8 GPA.
The women’s softball and gymnastic teams won Big Ten championships last year, and there were eight individual conference champions.
Voelz has a bachelor’s degree in education from Illinois State University and a master’s degree in education from Northern Illinois University.
NCAA enforcement representative Bob Minnix said neither the men’s nor the women’s programs at Oregon have been under investigation during Voelz’s tenure.
“They run a clean program,” Minnex said.