Ready to play: New energy in athletics

Charles Guthrie’s appointment as athletic director, along with new coaches, renovated facilities and an upgraded mascot, signals new momentum for athletics at SF State.

SF State’s director of athletics, Charles Guthrie, in the newly renovated gymnasium with the updated Gator mascot.

New Athletic Director Charles Guthrie

Guthrie started at the University on July 1 after three years as director of athletics at Clark College of Vancouver, Wash., and almost eight years in California State University and University of California athletic and advancement positions.

“I want the whole community to know that I’m coming with high-level energy,” he said.

The appointment comes at a critical period for SF State athletics, where there is new momentum as the 2014-15 school year gets under way. “Charles Guthrie’s experience and proven leadership will elevate the Gator program to the next level of competitiveness and excellence within the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA),” said Vice President for University Advancement Robert Nava. “In his first 60 days, he already has exceeded our expectations, developing a new fundraising plan, hiring three new coaches and helping design and release a new Gator mascot.”

Over the summer, the University completed a $2 million renovation of its sports facilities, modernizing the Gymnasium and the men's and women's locker rooms. The improvements will benefit student athletes as well as all students, faculty and staff who rely on SF State's recreation programs and athletic facilities.

The University’s NCAA Division II program has more than 250 student athletes competing in 12 programs: men’s and women’s basketball; baseball; men’s and women’s soccer; softball; volleyball; women’s indoor and outdoor track and field; men’s and women’s cross country; and wrestling. All teams compete in the CCAA, except for wrestling, which is in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

The three new coaches bring a winning tradition to SF State. New women's basketball coach Dennis Cox is the winningest active coach in NCAA Division II and guided his previous team, the Clayton State Lakers, to a national championship in 2011. Matt Barnes, the new men's soccer coach, comes to SF State after leading a remarkable turnaround at Lubbock Christian University that culminated in a first-place conference finish in 2013. New women's track and field coach Kendra Reimer led the men's and women's track and field teams at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps to 51-9 and 53-7 records, respectively, from 2010 to 2014.

Guthrie and the University have keyed in on building awareness and school spirit. “We talk about athletics as the front porch and how to make that very attractive, not only for students and faculty but for alumni,” he said. “Let’s parlay that into making sure that materials reflect the brand, drive awareness and interest in game schedules, what time we play -- and ultimately attendance.”

Guthrie has worked through some of the challenges of developing a winning organization, with 10 of 11 sports programs at Clark College seeing postseason play last year. “For a lot of highly recruited students, [Clark] wasn’t their first option,” he said. “What we had to overcome was to make this their first option. We did a good job with marketing and our online and social media presence. We focused on facilities improvement. We found resources for coaches to go out to high schools and connect. That was really important.”

While also at Clark, Guthrie addressed Title IX issues. “We instituted roster management, built a new softball field, did a great job of moving resources and made sure that our female athletes were provided with equal opportunities.” At SF State, “we’re going above and beyond, showing that we are the model for compliance.”

Before overseeing sports programs, leading development and a rebranding initiative as associate athletic director at Cal State Los Angeles, Guthrie headed alumni and parent relations for California State University, San Marcos in north San Diego County. His background also includes a four-year stint as associate director of athletics at the University of California, San Diego, where he was involved in promotions, ticket operations and spirit groups, among other efforts. Guthrie’s master’s in education administration and policy studies is from the University at Albany, the State University of New York; he holds a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University.

At SF State, there is one thing Guthrie seeks to do right away: “My goal is to get the campus community to take ownership in the program. Donors need to know the support they provide will directly impact student athletes. We will be committed to providing a top-notch experience for our student athletes, fans and the community at large. High-level energy -- I like to bring it every day.”

-- Anthony Lazarus