John Schael to retire after 36 years as athletics director


After 36 years of leading the Washington University in St. Louis Department of Athletics, John Schael announced he would retire at the conclusion of the 2013-14 school year. Schael’s final day as director of athletics will be June 30.

“John Schael has built one of the very best scholar-athlete programs in the nation, and Washington University athletics would not be what they are today without his passion, foresight and great care,” said Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “For 36 years, he has guided a program that is built on athletic excellence while never losing sight of the fact that our athletes are always students first. He has assembled a talented and long-serving group of coaches, trainers and administrators who share his vision, and we will be indebted to the foundation he has laid for many decades to come.”

The 2000 and 2008 Division III Central Region winner of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) award, Schael has helped orchestrate the Bears’ athletics transformation into one of the top departments in Division III. Since his arrival in 1978, Washington University has totaled 176 NCAA appearances, 162 University Athletic Association (UAA) titles, and 19 national championships. On Jan. 26, 2007, Schael was inducted into the Washington University Sports Hall of Fame.

Schael has directed the Department of Athletics to seven consecutive top-five finishes in the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup Division III standings, which rate athletics programs from around the country. The Bears finished a program-best second in the standings in 2007-08 and 2011-12. WUSTL has compiled a 5,582-2,348 overall record in Schael’s 36 seasons, good for a 70.4 winning percentage.

In 2007-08, he guided the Bears to a school-record three NCAA Division III national championships and a second-place finish in the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup. In 2004-05, the Bears won a school- and UAA-record 11 conference titles. WUSTL also finished third in the Directors’ Cup.

“When I first sat in Dr. Danforth’s office in the spring of 1978 hoping for the opportunity to be selected as Washington University’s athletic director, I was a young man. And now, a little older, I am as thrilled as ever to be part of the Washington University community,” Schael said. “The intervening 36 years have been gratifying, with some years more challenging than others, but each memorable in its own way. It has been an honor and privilege to work under two great Washington University Chancellors, William H. Danforth and Mark S. Wrighton. They were always there providing that positive leadership, sharing their vision, and helping make great things happen.”

Schael has been instrumental in creating the foundation for WUSTL’s success. In 1981, he resurrected the men’s basketball program after a 10-year hiatus and witnessed the debut of the Lopata Basketball Classic in 1984. Schael also helped with the addition of several women’s programs at WUSTL: cross country (1979), basketball (1979-80), indoor track and field (1987), soccer (1989), softball (2000) and golf (2008).

Schael was also involved in the construction and renovation of new athletic facilities, at a cost of nearly $15 million, from 1983-85. In 1986, Schael, along with other WUSTL administrators, played a key role in the formation of the UAA, one of the finest conferences in all of collegiate athletics.

He helped bring about WUSTL’s assistance in the hosting of the 1986 AAU/USA National Junior Olympic Games, and the 1987 and 1989 National Senior Olympic Games in St. Louis. WUSTL also was a venue for the 1984 U.S. Olympic Festival. Schael was instrumental in the creation of the W Club, WUSTL’s athletics fundraising organization, in 1989, and in 1992, the first induction ceremony was held for the university’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Some of Schael’s accomplishments include the development of the Gary M. Sumers Recreation Center, scheduled to be complete in 2016. He also was instrumental in the additions of the McWilliams Fitness Center, the Washington University Hall of Champions in 2002, and the installation of UBU turf on Francis Field in the summer of 2012. Additionally, the inception of men’s basketball’s Lopata Classic in 1984 and women’s basketball’s McWilliams Classic in 2001, and volleyball’s Teri Clemens Invitational in 2003 further enhanced the progress of athletics at WUSTL.

The volleyball team won the school’s first national title in 1989 before reeling off six in a row from 1991-96. With the 2003, 2007 and 2009 volleyball championships, the Bears own the Division III record for most titles in volleyball with 10.

The women’s basketball team also won four consecutive national titles from 1998-2001, and picked up its fifth championship in 2010. The men’s basketball team won back-to-back national championships in 2008 and 2009, while the men’s tennis team picked up its first national title in 2008 and the women’s cross country team won its first national championship in 2011.

Schael has served on many committees during his tenure on the Danforth Campus, including the NCAA Classification Committee from 1983-86 and the NCAA Council (Division III) from 1987-91. He also has served on the board of directors for the St. Louis Sports Commission, the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship Committee, and in 1996, he served as president of the National Association of Division III Athletic Administrators, an organization he helped establish.

“I thank Washington University’s students, alumni, parents, friends, faculty, staff and members of our campus community. Your friendship and encouragement have inspired us and sustained us. Together, we have accomplished and celebrated many important achievements. I shall always be grateful to you for teaching me the lessons, for taking the time to show me the ‘Washington Way’ to handle success and failure, and for helping make each and every year special for me and my family,” Schael added.

Prior to his time at WUSTL, Schael worked at the University of Chicago from 1968-78. He was the wrestling coach throughout his stay and the associate director of physical education and athletics from 1974-78.

A native of Cleveland, Schael graduated from Euclid High School in 1962. He attended Miami University (Ohio) and earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1966 after lettering four years in wrestling and one in baseball. Schael earned his master’s degree from Miami in administration and physical education in 1968. He was inducted into Miami’s Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Euclid High School Hall of Fame in 1990.

WUSTL will conduct a national search for Schael’s successor.