Athletic director Jon Hart accepts USF athletic director position

Dakota Wesleyan University Athletic Director Jon Hart announced today that he is stepping down from his current position with the Tigers and has accepted the position of Athletic Director at the University of Sioux Falls. Hart, who had begun his eighth season as the AD at Dakota Wesleyan will be heading just down the road on I-90 to lead the DII Cougars athletic program for the 2024 season.

The Tiger athletic programs have seen extraordinary success on the playing field during Hart’s tenure. DWU Athletics has frequently been in the top half nationally of the NAIA Learfield Cup standings thanks to some of the highest sport finishes and rankings in school history. In 2019, the DWU track & field program brought home two of its first-ever individual National Championships. In 2018, the women’s basketball program won the NAIA DII National Championship, which was also the first team title in school history. In 2015, the men’s basketball program finished runner-up in the NAIA DII tournament. The football program also experienced its most successful five-year run-in program history from 2013-17. Under Hart’s leadership, there has been a steady increase in conference champions, All-Americans, All-GPAC honorees and multiple top finishes and post-season appearances.

Fundraising for the DWU athletic department has also taken a giant leap forward during Hart’s tenure. Annually, DWU Athletics raises over $800,000 in scholarships and general fundraising through close work with DWU TeamMakers, corporate sponsors and individual team fundraisers. Hart’s involvement with facility and capital campaign projects have led to completions of the DWU & Avera Sport and Wellness Center ($12M, completed in February 2016); Drake Baseball Field turf and scoreboard project ($400K, fully completed in May 2023); the Christen Family Wellness Center renovation and seating expansion ($200K, completed fall of 2022); Joe Quintal turf project ($1.2M, completed fall 2018); athletic weight room renovation, locker room renovations, Bary Kusel athletic offices renovation, indoor golf practice facility, soccer and softball facility upgrades and much more. With Hart’s assistance, DWU completed a seven year $40M campaign in just four years.

When the news hit campus, multiple members of the Tiger community wanted to comment on Jon’s departure. President Daniel Kittle had this to say: “Thank you, Jon, for your outstanding service, your unwavering commitment, and your enduring impact on Dakota Wesleyan University. Your legacy here will be cherished, and your contributions will be remembered fondly by all who had the privilege of working alongside you. We wish you and your family the very best in your next chapter.”

Head volleyball coach Lindsay Wilber added, “Though I am sad for our campus, I am extremely happy for Jon and his family. You will not find an Athletic Director that supports his coaches and student athletes more than Jon does. The University of Sioux Falls is gaining a wonderful leader and mentor in Jon Hart, and we are going to miss him tremendously here at Dakota Wesleyan.”

Men’s head basketball coach Matt Wilber agreed. "I will always be grateful for Jon and his leadership, loyalty, and his commitment to DWU and my family personally. We have been so lucky to have him here and to have his support of his coaches and athletes. It's tough professionally losing him, but as a friend, I couldn't be happier for him. USF made a great decision in hiring him and they definitely got better as a whole today."

Women’s head basketball coach Jason Christensen added, “I am thankful for Jon and the impact he made in his time at DWU. Jon has always been a class act and I know he will do great things at USF. I wish him and his family nothing but the best as they start this new chapter in their life. Once a Tiger, always a Tiger.”

When asked about his time at Dakota Wesleyan, Hart had this to say. “Being a part of this campus community and department has been an absolute privilege and honor. I’ve been extremely blessed to work alongside an amazing group of coaches, administrators, staff, faculty, and community members who are my family and friends. I have spent nearly half my life at this University, and this will always be a place that holds a special place in my heart. My family and I have been blessed to witness and be a small part in some special accomplishments and memories that we will cherish forever. I look forward to this new chapter with my family, but we will always bleed blue.”

University of Sioux Falls president, Dr. Brett Bradfield spoke on the new hire. “As the University of Sioux Falls embarked upon its search for our new Athletic Director, we sought an individual that demonstrated commitment to sensibly grounded leadership and the ability to build productive and healthy relationships. Beyond those baseline qualities, Jon demonstrated his steadfast commitment to creating positive experiences for student-athletes in alignment with the institution’s core mission, as well as an incredibly strong work-ethic necessary for this role. We feel very fortunate to have found Jon Hart who checked all those boxes for USF.”

Hart will begin his new duties at USF in January of 2024. Dr. Kittle has indicated that Dakota Wesleyan will look to appoint an interim AD to lead athletics until the search for a permanent replacement can be completed.