Last June, as President Geoffrey S. Mearns introduced Beth Goetz to the campus community, he explained the factors that led to her hiring as Ball State’s new Director of Intercollegiate Athletics.
He noted her extensive leadership experience, including key positions at Butler University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Connecticut, where she served as chief operating officer with oversight for all internal areas and the day-to-day operations of UConn Athletics.
“As a previous college athlete, coach, and administrator, Beth understands the importance of leading others and how that will play a major role in enhancing competitive success for all our sports programs,” said President Mearns. He also noted her prior successes in boosting attendance at athletic events and in raising philanthropic support.
“What I appreciate most about Beth is that she believes athletics is part of the overall educational experience for college students,” he said. “Beth also embodies the same values that are intrinsic to Ball State University, including our Beneficence Pledge. 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.”
In December, Goetz sat down share her insights on her new role and to reflect on the “amazing honor” of joining Ball State during the Centennial Celebration of its proud past, bright future, and “We Fly” Cardinal spirit.
What attracted you to Ball State?
I am from the Midwest, and I have spent the majority of my career at public research universities, so I was aware of Ball State’s reputation as a great University with a strong Athletics Department. As I got to know President Mearns and others in the campus community, I could tell Ball State supported the kind of culture that would be a great fit in terms of my own core values. It has not taken long for this to feel like home.
How have you approached the job in your first months here?
The most important thing to do is listen. Every place is unique and so I want to learn as much as I can about Ball State’s proud history, about everyone’s perspective on what’s important for our future, and where there are areas for improvements. It’s been exciting for me to engage with our students and get to know our great coaches who are so passionate about Ball State and their programs. I’ve also had the opportunity to spend time with our supporters and fans, whose devotion and commitment are such an integral part of our success.
What do you hope to learn from Cardinal fans?
Their feedback is essential to understanding how we can improve the entire game-day experience, from the time they purchase a ticket to when they leave a game.
In that context, it’s important to understand how we consume sports today, which is significantly different today than it was even five years ago. Things like the ability to connect to Wi-Fi at a game have become important. Attending a game is also a social event, so we need to ask: How do we best create a game day environment where people feel engaged — with their friends, with fellow fans, with our players, and with the University as a whole?
Of course, performance on the field or on the court is also critical to that sense of engagement. I know firsthand what it feels like both as an athlete and a fan to have a passionate crowd, and we want the excitement to be there for everyone.
How do you balance the desire to win with all the other factors that make for a successful athletics program?
As part of the challenge of competing on a national level, the goal of winning is a crucial measure of success. At the same time, our first priority and responsibility is always to our students. More than 450 student-athletes participate across 19 sports and they proudly wear the Ball State uniform while pursuing a wide range of degrees and serving our community. We want to provide a great experience for them, both athletically and academically. We also know that skills our athletes learn on the fields and courts of play — such as teamwork, resilience, and commitment — transcend sport and will serve as great tools as they pursue their careers and strive to be leaders in their communities.
So, while winning is critically important, so is the importance of academics and our student-athletes’ individual development. Those are all connected. And success doesn’t look the same for every single sport, and it doesn’t always happen at the pace we would like it to. But I think it’s important that we pursue competitive excellence in our programs, setting expectations that are high and creating a plan to live up to those expectations.
How do you look at Athletics’ relationship to Muncie and surrounding areas?
It’s exciting, in our Centennial year, to be a part of the 100-year partnership between Ball State and the community. To repeat words I’ve often heard from President Mearns and others, we are better together. Even in my relatively short time here, I have experienced the strength of the community on and around campus that brings those words to life.
I’m full of pride in our Cardinal athletic teams and spirit groups who have donated thousands of hours of community service in Muncie and the surrounding area. You’ll see our students at work in places such as the Second Harvest Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, the Boys & Girls Clubs, and the Muncie Mission.
I am particularly proud of our growing Charlie’s Reading/Coloring Challenge, where our student-athletes promote reading at the elementary school level. It’s now grown to over 100 area schools and pre-K centers during the course of the program. Our student-athletes gladly give of their time, as they are passionate about making a difference.
Looking ahead, what are some priorities on your list?
I want all of us in Athletics asking, “How do we get better today? Where can we make some improvements? How can we build on our strengths to make a positive impact?” One area of focus are ways we can continue to provide our student-athletics cutting-edge training tools, first-class training facilities, and demonstrate a commitment to their overall health and well-being.
At the same time, we want to align what we do each and every day to the values of the institution. As I look to the future, I am confident Ball State is well positioned to leverage our campus resources, with great opportunities to collaborate with experts across campus in the areas of leadership, sports performance, nutrition, and communication. The result will be a transformative education that extends even beyond the classroom and enhances opportunities as lifelong members of the Cardinal family.