Gary D. Walters, who in a five-decade career as a student-athlete, coach, administrator and NCAA leader has established his voice as one of the most respected in college athletics, is in his 14th year as Director of Athletics at Princeton University.
Walters oversees an athletic department that has won 144 Ivy League championships in his first 13 years, a total that is 51 more than the next highest Ivy school during that time. In addition to Princeton’s success during his tenure, Walters recently completed a five-year run on the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee and spent the 2006-07 academic year as the committee chair.
Walters is a 1967 Princeton graduate who played point guard on the Tigers’ 1965 NCAA Final Four men’s basketball team, making him one of just two men who have played in the Final Four and gone on to be chair of the Division I committee. His national basketball work also included serving on the College Basketball Partnership, an initiative of NCAA president Myles Brand that was led by and featured major Division I coaches, administrators, and stakeholders.
Walters has led an athletic department that has won the Ivy League’s unofficial all-sports standings and has produced at least one individual team or national champion every year of his tenure.
His legacy at Princeton will include his ability to identify young head coaching talent, one that has seen him hire no fewer than 14 coaches with no previous Division I head coaching experience who have gone on to win Ivy League or national championships. Among the coaches to whom he gave a first Division I opportunity are John Thompson III, who won three Ivy titles in four years at Princeton before taking Georgetown to the 2007 men’s basketball Final Four; Scott Bradley, who has won five Ivy titles and eight Gehrig Division titles in baseball; Julie Shackford, the only coach to take an Ivy League school to the NCAA women’s soccer Final Four; Roger Hughes, who led Princeton’s football team to its first nine-win season in 40 years; Lori Dauphiny, architect of the most dominant women’s open rowing boat in the history of the NCAA championships; and Kristin Holmes-Winn and Maureen Barron, who won four Ivy titles each in field hockey and softball.
Princeton teams have won 23 national championships in his first 13 years as director of athletics. During that time Princeton has fielded 33 teams in Ivy League sports, and 31 of those have won at least one league championship. In addition, 35 of the 38 Princeton varsity teams have played in postseason championship competition. A total of six Princeton teams have competed in the NCAA Final Four of their sport since he became AD, including four in the calendar year of 2004, tying Princeton with UCLA and Stanford for the most in Division I.
Princeton also finished in the Top 25 in the Directors’ Cup in 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2002, making Princeton the only non-scholarship school ever to do so. Princeton is the highest-finishing non-scholarship school every year but two in the history of the Directors’ Cup.
In addition to this on-field success, Walters has overseen a nearly complete renovation of athletic facilities, most notably the demolition of Palmer Stadium and the building of Princeton Stadium and Weaver Track and Field Stadium in its place. Other projects have included the construction of the Class of 1952 Stadium, the new squash courts in Jadwin Gym, the addition of 16 locker rooms to the Caldwell Field House, the renovation and expansion of the boathouse to the Shea Rowing Center, and aesthetic improvements to both Baker Rink and DeNunzio Pool. The most current project is the building of a $14 million soccer stadium in place of outdated Lourie-Love Field.
Walters’ dynamic leadership has been acclaimed and nationally profiled in such journals as Sports Illustrated, Sports Business Journal, Athletic Management, The New York Times Magazine, Wall Street Journal and Athletic Business Magazine.
Walters has adopted a management philosophy based on the ideals of character-based coaching and the true student-athlete on campus. Toward that end, he created the Princeton Academic Athletic Fellows program, which links academic, athletic and social pursuits by identifying faculty members and administrators to serve in support roles for each team. Walters also created the Princeton Varsity Club, a unique support group geared toward providing broad-based assistance for the Tigers’ 38 intercollegiate teams while stressing the ideals of performance, values and community. The PVC’s Board of Directors is comprised of some of the most respected names in the Princeton athletic family, and among its other endeavors has been a speaker series that began with an address at Princeton by NCAA president Brand.
Walters has spearheaded and implemented a gender-neutral compensation structure for coaches and has overseen the development of the University’s Office of Athletic Communications and Office of Athletic Relations. Among his other projects have been the planning and organization of the 1996-97 Faculty Symposiums on Athletics and the development of the Varsity Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
He has also seen four members of his administrative staff become Directors of Athletics, most recently Jim McLaughlin at Union in 2005.
Walters has served as the chairman of the Ivy Committee on Administration and is an ethics fellow for the Institute of International Sport. He was recently named to the advisory board for the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern.
A three-year starter as a point guard on Princeton’s basketball team, Walters was featured with teammate Chris Thomforde, now the president of Moravian College, on the cover of Sports Illustrated in February 1967 while leading that year’s team to a 25-3 record, an NCAA tournament berth and a Fifth place finish in the national polls. Walters subsequently became the youngest head basketball coach in NCAA history in 1970, when he took over the duties at Middlebury College. He then spent three years as head coach at Union College (where he coached former Tiger head basketball coach Bill Carmody) before returning to Princeton as an assistant coach in 1973. Walters also served as head coach at both Dartmouth College — where he was named New England Coach of the Year in 1976 — and Providence College. In 1980 Walters was selected to coach at the U.S. Olympic Trials. He also served as a color analyst on Big East men’s basketball telecasts.
He joined Kidder, Peabody & Co. in 1981 as an investment representative. He left as a senior vice president and partner in 1990 to become senior partner of Woolf Associates Sports Management in Boston, and he then became managing director of Seaward Management, an investment advisory firm, in 1992. He was a three-year participant in the executive education program sponsored by the Securities Industry Association conducted at the Wharton School of Business. While at Kidder he served for three years, one as chair, on the New England NASD district business conduct committee, the regulatory body responsible for enforcing security regulations in over-the-counter markets.
Walters, who played high school basketball at Reading (Pa.) High under longtime Princeton coach Pete Carril, helped Princeton to two Ivy League titles and the 1965 NCAA Final Four. He was a first-team All-Ivy League selection and received the team’s B.F. Bunn Trophy, “awarded to that member of the varsity team who through sportsmanship, play and influence has contributed most to the sport at Princeton.”
Academically, Walters graduated from Princeton in 1967 with a BA degree in Psychology. As an undergraduate he co-authored, with Psychology professors Marvin Karlins and Thomas Coffman, a study entitled “On the Fading of Social Stereotypes: Studies in Three Generations of College Students,” which was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1969. This study has become widely cited in social psychology research as being a part of the “Princeton Trilogy,” sequential studies that focused on ethnic stereotyping.
Walters and his wife, Susan, have three children: Liza, Nick and Matt. Liza graduated from Brown in 2003, while Nick graduated from Princeton in 2005. Matt is currently in the Class of 2011 at Union College.