John Hardt’s connection with the University of Richmond started years before the school and Hardt first made contact about the position of athletics director. His daughter, Madeline, is a 2016 UR graduate.
Keith Gill stepped down as Richmond’s athletics director in May. Madeline was among the first to inform Hardt that UR had a vacancy.
Hardt was introduced as Richmond’s vice president and director of athletics Wednesday, and he recalled his daughter calling him the day Gill resigned and saying, “Dad, you should be interested. Richmond’s a great place. The Spiders are great. I love the Spiders. You’d make a great Spider AD.”
She kept contacting her father during subsequent months, repeating the message.
“It got to be a little bit more of a harassment than an encouragement,” said Hardt, 55. “But she was absolutely right.”
Hardt, Bucknell’s director of athletics for 18 years, starts at UR in January, and said the move involved “a bit of a bittersweet decision.” He leaves strong relationships, a successful legacy, and a school at which he was comfortable.
“However, when I looked at Richmond, and I looked at their track record, the history, the evidence and the culture, it was clear to me that this was yet another fine institution that is committed to both the student and the athlete in the student-athlete equation,” said Hardt. “And I found the opportunity almost irresistible to embrace another challenge in my athletic-administration career.”
Bucknell is a member of the Patriot League. Richmond belongs to the Atlantic 10 Conference and to the Colonial Athletic Association for football. Hardt said he sensed “a lot of shared DNA in how the student-athlete model works at both places. But then I also saw a more robust, competitive stage for A-10 athletics and Colonial, where certainly they’re up a number of clicks over where the Patriot League competes.”
David Walsh, the department’s deputy director of athletics, has supervised Spiders sports on an interim basis since Gill’s departure, and will continue to do so until Hardt moves.
“David and I go way back and as a matter of fact — actually, I shouldn’t even confess, but I’m going to — I tried to lure him away from Richmond a couple of times by nominating him to AD positions,” said Hardt. “But he’s so loyal and he so loves it here at Richmond. He’s been an absolute dedicated staff member and has no plans of leaving. I hope that doesn’t change any time soon.”
Hardt called Richmond’s high academics profile part of the school’s “asset package. … It just puts the premium on the recruitment and identification of those Division I (prospects) who also are academically qualified to be successful Richmond Spiders.”
Hart said he felt it premature to discuss facility upgrades or possible athletics staff changes. Though his title includes “vice president,” Hardt said his focus is athletics, “although I think the door is always open in the area of alumni relations and development. And I would be mildly surprised if it didn’t entail some of that work here at Richmond.”
Bucknell, in Lewisburg, Pa., has an undergraduate enrollment of 3,600. Richmond has an undergraduate enrollment of about 3,000.
“Bucknell, like Richmond, is a highly selective, private, liberal-arts university,” said Ronald A. Crutcher, UR’s president. “John’s tenure at Bucknell includes high levels of performance among student-athletes both on the field of competition, as well as in the classroom.”
The schools have periodically met in football and men’s basketball. Bucknell plays UR in men’s basketball Dec. 19 at the Robins Center.
“I might be having a little bit of a split personality that day,” said Hardt.