18 Years of Orange and Blue: John Hardt to become Athletic Director at University of Richmond

Lauren Whelan and Elise Covert

After being with the University for 18 years, Director of Athletics and Recreation John Hardt has announced that he has accepted a new position as Athletic Director at the University of Richmond. Beginning in January 2018,  Hardt will oversee Richmond’s 19 varsity athletics programs, which compete on a more pronounced national stage in the Atlantic 10 Conference.

At the start of his career, Hardt served as the first liaison between the NCAA and the then-fledgling Patriot League Men’s Lacrosse program, which led him to applying for this position at the University. Since then, Hardt’s dedication to the Bison Athletics programs has changed the face of sports at the University. From fundraising, to facilities improvement, to personal development programs for athletes, his initiatives have carried the Orange and Blue into a new era of student-athlete excellence, building on the already strong student-athlete model that existed when he arrived.

“I’ve always, for my entire professional life, been a huge proponent of the scholar-athlete model. I saw Bucknell’s [Athletic Director] position posted and I thought, now here is a great opportunity to walk the walk. That’s what really drew my attention to the opportunity — I knew of the high standards that Bucknell had achieved in the areas, both on the playing field and in the classroom,” Hardt said.

Hardt has not only become a strong proponent of the student-athlete model, but has also built personal and valuable connections with a number of athletes over the years — one of the benefits of working at a small school. He says that these interactions will be one of the things he will miss the most about the Bison athletics program.

“You get to build a lot of relationships here — you really get to interact with our varsity athletes,” Hardt said. “The foundation [on which] we make our decisions and plans…is that everything is student-centered for all of Bucknell’s programs. We are always looking at our plans through that lens — an academic and athletic perspective.”

Hallmarks of his time with Bison athletics include the fundraising for and completion of the Kenneth G. Langone Athletics & Recreation Center (KLARC), including Kinney Natatorium and Sojka Pavilion, as well as the launch of the Athletics Leadership Institute.

One of the greatest challenges that Hardt has faced during his tenure has been raising the resources to fund the University’s 27 varsity programs, as well as athletics facilities renovations.

The key to his success as Athletic Director? Being a good listener. Hardt says that the importance of being a strong advocate of head coaches and being responsive to their needs is his biggest takeaway from his time here. This philosophy has kept the athletics program grounded, making it possible to provide the support and the flexibility necessary for athletes and coaches to achieve both on and off field.

As he looks back at his time with the Orange and Blue, Hardt said he will remember the many achievements reached across the expanse of the athletic programs — broken records, championships, and tournament games.

“The number one moment was definitely at the NCAA tournament when we knocked off Kansas,” Hardt said. “That will be forever etched in my brain. It was just one of the most remarkable moments in athletic competition that I’ve ever been a part of, and it still gives me chills even just thinking about it.”

In reflecting on his time at the University, Hardt recognizes and thanks many figures who have been instrumental in helping him develop Bison Athletics to become what they are today.

“It’s been a real honor and privilege to serve as the athletic director here. It’s been fun getting to know the students and work with four great faculty athletic representatives who embody the scholar athlete model on the academic side — Professor Tim Sweeney, Dr. Gary Sojka, Professor Mitch Chernin, and Professor Linda Smolka,” Hardt said. “At a place like Bucknell where we put such a heavy emphasis on the student athlete experience, having the sort of support they have given has been crucial to our success. I would also like to thank our Deputy Athletic Director Tim Pavlechko. He has allowed us to achieve the level of success we have across the board.”

While he jokes about the necessary expansion of his wardrobe to include some Spider Red, Hardt says he’ll always bleed Orange and Blue.

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