Hartzell pitches himself to community

Hartzell pitches himself to community

By Aaron Graff, @Aarongraff_DE

The second of four open forums for athletic director finalists took place Monday.

Rick Hartzell served as director of athletics for the University of Northern Iowa from 1999 to 2008.

“We took over a program at Northern Iowa in 2000 that was clearly the black sheep of the Missouri Valley [Conference],” He said. “Nobody liked to go up there, the facilities were awful. The teams were no good. We turned it into — I think — just the opposite of that.”


While at UNI, administration asked him to cut sports teams. The university dropped men’s tennis and men’s swimming and diving.

Later, new administrators asked him to drop baseball and wrestling.

“If you drop wrestling in Iowa, wrestling fans would have stood at the president’s porch until he reinstated them,” Hartzell said. “We would’ve gone under the NCAA limit. So we couldn’t do that.”

Hartzell had personal attachment to baseball and did not find it logical to cut.

“I was asked to drop baseball. I played baseball at Northern Iowa. It wasn’t costing money. I stood on principle and said I wouldn’t do it — not in an argumentative way, not in an insubordinate way. It just wasn’t the right thing for me to do, and I walked away.”

Since 2011, Hartzell has run a motivational speaking business. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and English and a master’s degree in educational administration — both from the University of Northern Iowa. 

Hartzell said the athletic facilities, history and area is better at Southern Illinois than at Northern Iowa. He wants to create a family environment between everyone in athletics to make it better.     


“Southern Illinois has lost its swagger,” Hartzell said. “Its lost its confidence maybe. Has maybe lost its elementary belief in itself.”

He said football and men’s basketball better win at SIU.  

“Football starts the season and is a lost leader for you financially,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to win, or it isn’t worth spending the money for. Men’s basketball is kind of the marketing and campus excitement.”

He said that does not mean other sports are not important, but because of the popularity and money attached to those sports, they have to succeed.  

Hartzell said SIU football was down in the early 2000s before getting really good. He said if football tumbled for another year or two, it would be challenging bringing it back up to par because other programs are only getting better.

“If we recruit right and coach right and guide and mentor and develop and kick kids in the rear every now and then and put our arms around them 95 percent of the time, what will follow at the end of the day is enough wins to keep everybody happy,” Hartzell said.

He said the important things outside of winning is the academics and growth of the student athletes. He said a coach has to be a teacher and communicative with the administrators. 

“I was with Greg McDermott and Ben Jacobsen and I never once heard them curse at a kid, ever,” Hartzell said. “That’s the way I would like the coaches to be. That doesn’t mean you don’t try to motivate, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to get after somebody every once in a while, but it means you treat people with respect and like human beings and a way you would want your own kids to be treated.”

Hartzell said he went through seven rounds of budget cuts at UNI. He would put a plan together in Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed cuts happened, which could cut $44 million from Carbondale’s campus. Hartzell said he would like to outperform the university resources.  

He said he has 10 to 15 great years to work and this would be his last job. He said he has not thought about a contract, but wants to work here.

The next forum is Rick Darnell’s at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Student Center Auditorium.

Aaron Graff can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 256.