At the helm of a proud and flourishing Bison athletics program is director of athletics and recreation John Hardt, who is now in his 18th year at Bucknell and his 32nd year in athletics administration. Hardt administers a broad-based sports program with a proud and successful history.
Since his arrival, Hardt has orchestrated one of the nation’s most assertive facilities overhauls, taken the department to new lengths in the area of external relations, branding and marketing, established and maintained relationships with major donors, restructured the athletics administration in order to help Bucknell stay ahead of the curve in the fast-paced world of Division I athletics and built upon Bucknell’s long-standing tradition of scholar-athlete excellence.
Hardt is privileged to oversee a 27-sport varsity athletics program that is at the head of the class in the Patriot League, both on the playing fields and in the classroom. From Presidents’ Cups to Academic All-Americans to league championships to leading the nation in student-athlete graduation rate, Hardt has been able to build on the proud heritage of Bison Athletics.
While building on Bucknell’s athletic and academic excellence is paramount, Hardt has also incorporated progressive ideas in the area of external relations. Initiatives such as increased online video programming, a new graphics identity package, an informative and visually appealing athletics website and a revamped Bison Club all serve to bring Bison Athletics into the homes of its supporters.
During his productive tenure at Bucknell, Hardt has overseen continual growth in Bison Club donations, with receipts now annually topping $2 million, and he has seen the program benefit from several major gifts. While the Kenneth G. Langone Athletics and Recreation Center is the crown jewel of a successful university fundraising campaign, other significant offerings include a $7.6 million donation from William Graham — one of the largest in university history — which was directed toward women’s athletics and the successful restoration of wrestling to varsity status. Graham Field, the AstroTurf venue at the West Fields, was also a result of that gift.
Other major gifts have included the funding of the FieldTurf playing surface and new lighting in Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium, the Holmes Stadium grandstand/press box facility that supports both Graham Field and Emmitt Field, the contruction of the Graham Building, the ongoing upgrades to the baseball and softball facilities, a brand new instructional golf center, as well as endowments for football, track and field, water polo and swimming and diving.
At Bucknell, Hardt has initiated groundbreaking deals in the area of apparel (adidas), marketing (Bucknell Sports Properties) and sports medicine (Geisinger Sports Medicine).
While much has been achieved in the last 17 years, Hardt’s vision for Bison Athletics carries well into the future. Working with campus and department leadership, he has developed a long-range plan for Bucknell Athletics that meshes with the University’s strategic plan. Hardt’s plan focuses on future facilities upgrades, places an emphasis on diversity and gender equity, and promises the continued commitment to a student-centered athletics and recreation program that adheres to the student-athlete ideal.
In the fall of 2011, Hardt announced the launching of the Bucknell Athletics Leadership Institute, a program designed identify, develop, challenge and support student-athletes and coaches in their continual quest to become leaders in academics, in athletics and in life. Other significant initiatives include the BISON FUEL nutrition station located in the newly renovated Zeller Lounge, and the "Orange and Blue Goes Green" sustainability program.
Hardt, who received the Gen. Robert R. Neyland Outstanding Athletic Director Award in March 2008 the All-American Football Foundation’s 91st Banquet of Champions, also remains very active in athletics governance at the national level. He currently serves as chair of the NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Committee. In 2006-07 he served as chair of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Committee, he recently completed a four-year term on the Division I Baseball Committee, and in 2012 he earned a presigious post on the NCAA Division I Leadership Council. Hardt also serves on the Divisino I FCS ADA Executive Committee.
Hardt began his tenure at Bucknell on February 15, 2000, after serving four years as associate director of athletics at Michigan State University. While there, Hardt supervised the sports medicine staff, strength and conditioning, equipment operations, computing and tech services and NCAA/Big Ten rules compliance. In addition, he handled legal and contractual issues for the department.
Prior to his tenure at MSU, Hardt spent five years at Syracuse University as director of athletic compliance and four years with the NCAA’s national office as a compliance representative.
A native Iowan, Hardt is a 1984 honors graduate of the University of Iowa, and he was a member of the Hawkeyes’ 1982 Rose Bowl football team. He later earned his law degree from Iowa and is a doctoral candidate in Iowa’s College of Education.