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Success means stability for Kent State University Director of Athletics Joel Nielsen, who signed a contract extension last winter that will keep him at his post through July of 2021.
Nielsen's new contract was reportedly approved by the Board of Trustees during their December 2016 meeting. His current contract, signed in 2013, was set to expire on June 30 of this year.
Although terms of Nielsen's new contract have not been disclosed, he will reportedly receive a sum very similar to the Mid-American Conference-high $428,000 annual salary he was scheduled to make in 2016-17 according to the terms of his former contract.
"I'm grateful to (KSU) President (Beverly) Warren and the trustees for the confidence they've show in me and the way the department has been run for the past seven years, and the confidence they've shown in supporting the way we've been doing our work," said Nielsen, currently in his eighth year as the Flashes Director of Athletics. "For me it's exciting, because it's an opportunity to continue to support our coaches and student-athletes and our motto of winning championships and graduating student-athletes."
Nielsen has now received new contracts from two different presidents at Kent State University. He was hired by President Lester Lefton in 2010, then received his first contract extension from Lefton in September of 2013. Lefton stepped down in July of 2014 and was replaced by current President Warren, who Nielsen has obviously impressed.
"I'm fortunate to have served under two presidents that recognize the value of a successful intercollegiate athletic program to the university, and are willing to support outstanding student-athletes," said Nielsen.
"The transition from working for President Lefton to President Warren has been fairly seamless for me. She took an interest in the athletic department from day one. She's been a proud and enthusiastic supporter of what we value at Kent State when it comes to our athletic department."
The men's basketball team's MAC Tournament title and NCAA Tournament appearance in 2017 was the latest in a long line of major program successes for the Flashes under Nielsen. The 2012 Kent State baseball team advanced to the College World Series for the first time in program history, then the 2012-13 football squad broke a 40-year bowl drought by capturing the MAC East Division title and earning a bid to the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
The Flashes women's golf squad has run its string of conference titles to a MAC-record 18 straight and is currently ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation along with the perennial national power men's golf team.
Kent State's volleyball, women's soccer, field hockey, gymnastics and softball programs have also earned MAC championships over the past two seasons, while wrestler Dustin Kilgore won a national title in 2011 and track and field star Matthias Tayala captured a national crown in the hammer throw in 2014.
The Flashes have also enjoyed unprecedented success in the classroom, producing record GPAs on nearly an annual basis over the past few years.
With Kent State's student-athletes already thriving under Nielsen, the new contract will allow him to direct more attention to facility improvements that are desperately needed to keep key programs competitive. Upgrades to the M.A.C. Center, including a basketball/volleyball practice facility, are at the top of that list.
Approval for new artificial turf at Dix Stadium (football, soccer) and Murphy-Mellis Field (field hockey, lacrosse beginning in 2018) was gained by the Board of Trustees in its March meeting at a cost of $2.55 million.
"(The new contract) provides an opportunity to continue with the conversations we've had with our donors and corporations and others as far as the fundraising opportunities we have available in front of us, and the excitement that's around the upcoming campaign for those facility upgrades," said Nielsen. "It does give you that stability moving forward when you have conversations with donors and others, that they know you're going to be here for an extended period of time."