Academy tentatively names new athletic director

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- A former deputy and interim director of the U.S. Military Academy's athletic department has been tentatively named as the Air Force Academy's next athletic director, officials at the Academy announced Jan. 6.

James Knowlton, previously the director of athletics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., will succeed Dr. Hans Mueh, who will retire later this month.

"We were extremely pleased to receive applications from many highly qualified candidates," Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson said. "Jim Knowlton demonstrated the right level of intensity and experience while still understanding the unique military culture at our United States Air Force Academy."

Knowlton, who graduated from West Point in 1982, served as its deputy and interim athletics director from 2003 to 2006, where he supervised 25 intercollegiate athletic programs with over 1,000 student athletes.

Knowlton is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and led a battalion of 750 soldiers while stationed at Fort Carson. His military awards and decorations include a Legion of Merit medal, five Meritorious Service Medals, a Ranger Tab, an Air Assault Badge and a Senior Parachutist Badge. He is a registered professional engineer in Virginia and holds a master's degree in civil engineering from Cornell University.

"He will balance the demands of the NCAA business with our absolute necessity to win with character," Johnson said. "He brings a fresh perspective but knows the importance of athletics to all of our cadets, not just intercollegiate cadet athletes. I am confident he will set a culture and climate aligned with our core values. I look forward to him joining our team."

Knowlton said he is "incredibly excited" about being tentatively named the Academy's athletic director.

"I want to thank Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson and the search committee for their invitation to join the Academy family, and I am eager to work with the Falcon cadet athletes, coaches and staff. My family and I are very much looking forward to what lies ahead."

At RPI, Knowlton oversaw 23 intercollegiate NCAA teams, most of which play in Division III, involving 550 student athletes. During the 2012-2013 academic year, athletic teams at RPI averaged GPAs higher than 3.0, and many of the teams had winning records, according to the school's website, www.rpiathletics.com.

"This is an excellent example of a leader who has grown, through his Rensselaer experience, to take on an important role at another noteworthy institution of higher education," RPI President Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson said. "Jim has created a culture of leadership and success in athletics that is centered around excellence in the classroom and on the 'field of friendly strife.'"