Ward to step down as ACU director of athletics

BCH Sports

Abilene Christian University director of athletics Allen Ward announced today his intention to
step down at the end of the Fall 2021 semester to pursue other professional opportunities. A
search will begin immediately for his successor.

The veteran athletics administrator has begun his fourth year at ACU after 25 years at Murray
(Kentucky) State University and the University of North Texas. Ward became just the ninth
person to serve as Wildcat AD when he was hired in July 2018, and has helped lead the athletics
program through some historic early days in NCAA Division I, a recent transition to the Western
Athletic Conference, and a pandemic.

“It’s been a challenging three years, but a time filled with many special moments and
accomplishments for ACU’s young Division I program,” Ward said. “I will always recall fondly
the many ‘firsts’ I witnessed our coaches and student-athletes achieve in our D1 era.”
Wildcat programs under his watch have achieved remarkable success in the classroom and in
competition around the nation, and in its NCAA Tournament appearances during March
Madness.

“Allen brought great experience and a steadying influence to athletics on our campus at a key
time,” said ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert. “In particular, he had tremendous insights into the
world of March Madness that served our men’s and women’s basketball programs so well. He
talked frequently about the transformative impact of the NCAA Tournament for those sports,
based on what he experienced at Murray State, and he was right. We will always be grateful to
him for helping us navigate our 2019 and 2021 seasons at that high level with great class and
professionalism.”

In 2019, Abilene Christian was one of just three NCAA Division I universities to have both men’s
and women’s basketball teams win conference titles, and one of six Texas universities in 2019
and seven in 2021 to earn a March Madness bid. In 2019 the men’s team played No. 2 seed
Kentucky and the women played eventual national champion Baylor in the first round. In 2021,
the No. 14 seed men’s team shocked the college basketball world when it upset No. 3-seeded
Texas in the East Regional to advance to the second round against UCLA.
The two March Madness games in 2021 created $200.89 million in advertising value equivalent
for ACU and national television audiences totaling 12.09 million, generating international
visibility and brand awareness for Abilene Christian not seen since Bobby Morrow’s Olympic
gold medal heroics in 1956 and the world-record-setting years of Wildcat dominance in track
and field.

ACU’s recent success in basketball inspired donors to invest more than $40 million in a major
renovation of 53-year-old Moody Coliseum, which is underway and scheduled for full
completion in August 2022.

Ward oversaw tremendous gains in academic achievement for student-athletes, who earned a
3.28 cumulative GPA for 2020-21 – with 58 earning a 4.0 GPA – and had 229 named to the
Southland Commissioner’s Honor Roll and 13 programs with a team GPA of 3.00 or higher. All
women’s teams completed the year with GPAs well above 3.0 for the 15th and 16th consecutive
semesters, led by women’s tennis at 3.63.

In 2019-20, ACU’s APR (academic progress rate) score of 992 was the highest in the league.
Under Ward, the Wildcats also finished among leaders each year of the Southland
Commissioner’s Cup, which recognizes the league’s best overall programs, finishing third in
2020-21, second (abbreviated by the pandemic) in 2019-20, and fourth in 2018-19.

He helped guide ACU’s transition this fall to the WAC along with three other members of the
Southland. The venerable conference gives the university an expanded geographical footprint
into the West, especially in major U.S. markets, that will enhance student and student-athlete
recruiting; increased TV/tournament exposure opportunities; divisional play with established
rivals in Texas; and strong brand identity in a Division I conference with impressive name
recognition and history.

“I am grateful to president Schubert for the opportunity to serve ACU and be part of his
outstanding Senior Leadership Team,” Ward said. “From day one, his support for athletics has
been unwavering. It’s been an honor to serve in his administration and work with such an
inspirational leader. We have a great group of coaches and staff and the foundation is in place
for long-term sustainability and success. Transformational change is occurring in Division I, but
I’m confident ACU is positioned well to meet these challenges.”

Prior to arriving in Abilene, Ward served 13 years as AD at Murray State, where the Racers won
39 Ohio Valley Conference championships and participated 29 times in NCAA postseason play,
including four times in March Madness for men’s basketball. Under his leadership, MSU was
one of the top overall athletics programs in the Ohio Valley Conference.

“I will hold dear the many friendships I have gained while at ACU. The people I work with are
truly special and I am forever grateful for their hard work, dedication and loyalty,” said Ward, a
native of Rolla, Missouri. “I’m excited to see what God has in store for me and my family. I hope
that maybe my next stop is closer to my family in Kansas City, but I will go where the Lord
leads.”

Abilene Christian is the highest-ranking university in Texas in a 2021 U.S. News & World
Report assessment of institutions highly regarded for their commitment to student success.
Nationally, ACU achieved Top 10 status in three and Top 50 in another of eight high-impact
categories among 1,500 universities evaluated for the annual “America’s Best Colleges”
edition. No other Texas university was named in the top 10 of any category. Learn more at
acu.edu.

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