11 NCAA Div. III national team championships
PELLA — Finalizing a new athletics department leadership team, Central College president Mark Putnam has named Eric Van Kley as athletics director.
Van Kley has served as interim athletics director since July 1, following the retirement of Al Dorenkamp, who served for 14 years. Van Kley will continue as Central’s head wrestling coach, a post he has held for the past six seasons. Previously he was athletics director at the University of Great Falls (Mont.) in 2006-07 and head wrestling coach there for three years.
The department structure changed last summer when senior woman administrator Alicia O’Brien’s role was expanded to become associate athletics director and John Edwards was named associate athletics director for operations. Earlier, Mona Roozeboom was named associate athletics director for business affairs.
“The NCAA Division III athletics landscape changed dramatically during Al Dorenkamp’s 14 years of service at Central,” president Mark Putnam said. “It’s become increasingly clear that a change in our leadership structure is needed for the department to operate effectively in this transformed environment. And it’s now even clearer that the structure that was put in place last summer is the right one for Central College moving forward.
“I’ve had discussions with the coaching staff. I’ve received feedback from all corners of the campus, as well as from alumni and community members. And I’ve made my own observations over the past nine months. It’s evident that the leadership being provided in this new framework is superb. Eric, Alicia, John and Mona have formed a cohesive team that has provided effective direction and support for the department.”
Putnam said Van Kley is uniquely qualified for the job.
“Eric brings energy, commitment and great vision to the department, along with a willingness to listen that is cited most often by his colleagues as his greatest strength, and which is the key to his success as a leader,” Putnam said. “He seeks out
new ideas and is receptive to hearing different views, yet he’s not afraid of making tough decisions.
“Most importantly, his integrity and character are unquestioned. His priority is to help students succeed, in the classroom, on the playing field, and in their daily lives.”
Van Kley said he’s found a dream position.
“I have a great love for Central College, the Central athletics tradition and for who we are as a program and as an institution,” he said. “We’re blessed with a tremendous staff and I’m unbelievably excited about the opportunity to serve some of the best student-athletes in the country.”
The Dutch athletics program is deeply rooted in the NCAA Division III. Retired president Kenneth J. Weller authored the original Division III philosophy and Central won the first women’s championship ever staged by the NCAA, the 1981 Division III women’s cross country crown. The Dutch have captured 11 national team championships overall, winning NCAA titles in six sports, more than any other Iowa school. Central has also claimed 29 individual national titles, 156 Iowa Conference team crowns and 23 league all-sports titles. Central student-athletes have received CoSIDA academic all-America honors 49 times and all-America distinction more than 375 times.
Yet Van Kley is confident the Dutch can soar to even greater heights.
“I have a deep appreciation for the heritage of the Central athletics program and the outstanding people who have been integral parts of that,” he said. “I’m honored to follow them in this role and my goal is to continue building on that legacy of success, on and off the field and after graduation. But at the same time, I want to embrace the future and the tremendous opportunities we have on the horizon for programs and improvements.
“We’ve generated some great momentum in the past year and are determined to build on that moving forward.”
Van Kley started the Great Falls wrestling program in 2004 and turned it into an NAIA title contender, compiling a 28-13 dual meet record over three seasons, with three national top-10 team finishes.
Inheriting a Central squad that had as many as five open weights in 2007-08, Van Kley has built a squad of 45 wrestlers and the Dutch have made a steady ascent in his six seasons. His teams have posted four straight 10-win seasons, including a 12-6 mark in 2012-13 for the program’s highest winning percentage since 1994-95. This year’s Central squad also cracked the NCAA Division III national rankings for the first time in 20 years. Van Kley was named co-winner of the Iowa Conference coach of the year award in 2009-10.
Van Kley emphasized that he remains committed to continuing the resurgence of the wrestling program, as well as helping the athletics department thrive.
“The reason I feel very confident about doing both jobs well is the tremendous staff we have at Central and the support we receive from the administration,” he said. “I can’t say enough about the work that John Edwards does on our behalf in the athletics department. He’s been on campus for more than 40 years and has a wealth of knowledge. John has been an invaluable resource to lean on during this transition year and will be moving forward as well. And Alicia (O’Brien) and Mona (Roozeboom) are doing incredible jobs in their new roles.”
Van Kley also cited the support he receives from wrestling assistants Kevin Donahue, Bob Kuennen and Matt Diehl.
“We’re determined to build a championship wrestling program at Central,” he said. Putnam likes the combination.
“Many college athletics directors no longer coach, but there are some very successful ones who do,” Putnam said. “And with the expanded roles given to Alicia and Mona, along with the work several coaches have taken on in handling event management responsibilities, I believe this is a sustainable model. Certainly the experience of the past nine months is evidence of that.
“Eric has energized the Central wrestling program and is now doing the same for the athletics department.”
A Rock Valley, Iowa native, Van Kley is an honors graduate of Minnesota State University at Mankato and was a three-time letterwinner for the Division II program. He served as captain for the 2000 team which placed sixth at the national meet and was a two-time Scholastic All-America honoree. Van Kley earned a master’s degree from Duquesne University (Pa.).
Van Kley served three seasons as an assistant wrestling coach at The Dalles High School in Oregon before he spent a year as assistant coach at Division I Millersville University (Pa.), while also serving as Leadership Program Coordinator for the National Wrestling Coaches Association.
He and his wife Sarah have three children.
Central College athletics directors
1928-38 L.A. Winter
1938-65 Richard “Babe” Tysseling
1965-93 Ron Schipper
1993-94 Gary Boeyink (interim)
1994-97 Sam Bedrosian
1997-98 John Edwards (interim)
1998-2012 Al Dorenkamp
2012- Eric Van Kley