(AND Athletics) – The University of North Dakota announced today that athletics director Bill Chaves has received a four-year contract extension. Chaves, who was appointed UND’s 16th Director of Athletics in 2018, will now remain with UND through Spring 2026.
“Bill Chaves has done a fantastic job of administering and promoting UND Athletics and looking after the welfare of our university’s student-athletes during difficult times,” said UND President Andrew Armacost. “He has demonstrated outstanding leadership skills and has been an exceptional partner across all departments and units on campus.
“We are proud that under his leadership, our student-athletes have demonstrated their ability to excel in sport, in the classroom and in the community, and to fulfill the most important mission of a college,” added Armacost. “Bill has also been instrumental in guiding UND’s transition to two new athletics conferences. I look forward to working with him over the next four years.”
Chaves said he too is looking forward to continuing his work under Armacost’s leadership.
“AND is an amazing higher education institution and I have been very fortunate to have served for the past four years,” he said. “I look forward to continuing to work with so many great colleagues on campus and in our department.
“I continue to wake up each day trying to figure out how we can make our student-athletes’ experience the most memorable and best possible one, while still trying to make our state, our alumni, and our supporters proud.”
Four more years
Under Chaves, UND introduced its first official mascot in the university’s history. Since the fall of 2018, the Fighting Hawks moniker and likeness has touched every corner of campus as the latest features of UND’s institutional identity — including the coining of fightinghawks.com as the official website for UND Athletics.
During Chave’s tenure, the athletics department also developed and enacted a strategic plan called the flight plan. The plan aligns with the university’s strategic plan and was developed with input from athletes, coaches, alumni and supporters, among others.
Along with these developments, AND and most of its athletic teams attended the NCAA Division I Summit League conference during the 2018-19 academic year. The football team that joined the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2020 became the first team to win a conference championship in its freshman year. During Chaves’ tenure, UND has made two FCS playoff appearances so far and reached the quarterfinals for the first time in program history in 2020 – as high as the No. 2 nationally during the season.
In light of these accomplishments, UND extended its usage agreement with the City of Grand Forks/Spectra Entertainment to play football at the Alerus Center through 2030.
Also during Chaves’ tenure, UND extended its usage agreement with Ralph Engelstad Arena through 2030, thus securing a home for the university’s Division I ice hockey program. The team is consistently among the nation’s best, most recently winning an NCAA championship in the 2015-16 season. In 2021, Ralph Engelstad Arena hosted the NCHC Frozen Faceoff – the first of these tournaments to be held on a college campus.
The Fighting Hawks have won back-to-back NCHC regular-season championships, and this year they may become the first in conference history to win a third straight Penrose Cup.
In addition to recent successes in the hockey and soccer programs, the Fighting Hawks men’s basketball team earned its first win over a Power Five Conference team in AND Division I history in 2019 against the University of Nebraska. That season, head coach Paul Sather became one of only three other head coaches to lead his team to the Summit League Tournament Finals in his freshman season. Also that season, the women’s basketball team advanced to the semifinals of the Summit League.
Other “firsts” under Chaves were for UND’s women’s soccer team and men’s and women’s tennis teams, who achieved their first conference tournament appearances in Division I history in 2019 and 2021, respectively.
Chaves also helped establish the department’s Student-Athlete Inclusion and Diversity Committee in 2019.
Chaves took an active role in managing the COVID-19 pandemic and led an extensive working group of community stakeholders to plan for the reopening of UND Athletics for the Fall 2020 semester. In a statement at the time of the group’s formation, Chaves said he wanted to leverage the synergy of the Grand Forks community to “make things right” in order to protect public health as much as possible while reopening sporting events to spectators .
One result was the switch from physical to digital in event ticketing, including for season ticket holders. The change was implemented in spring 2021 after a similar change for AND student tickets.
growth and renewal
Chaves has also overseen physical changes to on-campus athletic fields and facilities, many of which are still ongoing. In early 2021, the university community said goodbye to the old Memorial Stadium off Columbia Road. First dedicated in 1927 to UND alumni who served in World War I, the stadium has long been the home of UND football.
Future developments on the Memorial Stadium site include a new home for the offices of UND Athletics in a five-story building – developed in a public-private partnership – that will also include an academic center for students and athletes, and top-floor residential units .
“It is reassuring to know that the site where Memorial stood will be occupied by generations of AND athletic students for years to come,” Chaves said at the March 9 recognition ceremony. “Our legacy will always be honored as today’s athletics department could not be what it is without all the contributions from those that came before us.”
Just east of the Memorial Stadium grounds is the Frederick “Fritz” D. Pollard Jr. Athletic Center, which was renamed in early 2021 to honor the life and achievements of Pollard Jr., the famous AND student athlete who passed away in 2003 . A bronze medalist at the 1938 Olympics, Pollard Jr. played soccer, boxed and track and field at UND. He was inducted into the first AND Athletics Hall of Fame Class in 1975.
Under Chaves, development of the Pollard Jr. Athletic Center will continue into Phase II, which will add more structures to the state-of-the-art training facility to accommodate spectator seating, strength-training facilities, locker rooms and the AND Athletics Hall of Fame.
Sporting, academic and civic excellence
Academically, UND’s student-athletes continue to shine under Chaves’ leadership. The spring semester 2021 marked 26 consecutive semesters with grade point averages above 3.0 in all sports. A total of 163 student-athletes made the Summit League Academic Honor Roll this semester, of which 83 were named to the conference’s Commissioner’s List of Academic Excellence.
These academic achievements rank the university among the top schools in the Summit League each year.
Additionally, during his tenure, Chaves oversaw the athletics department’s ongoing commitment to community service. Last month, the NCAA announced that AND had won the NCAA Team Works Community Service Competition, leading all other Division I institutions. Approximately 99 percent of all Fighting Hawk student-athletes participated in at least one service opportunity and contributed a total of 2,051 hours of community service during the September-November 2021 competition.
Chaves’ career highlights
Chaves is currently completing his fourth year on the National Association of Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Board of Directors. From 2015 to 2018 he was a member of the NCAA Council.
Prior to his career at UND, Chaves served as Director of Athletics at Eastern Washington University from 2007 to 2018. He has twice received the National Athletic Director of the Year award, presented to him in 2013 and 2016.
During his tenure at EWU, the football program won five Big Sky titles, qualified for the FCS playoffs six times and reached the semifinals four times. Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams enjoyed historic NCAA postseason tournament success under Chaves’ leadership, including the men’s first-ever Division I postseason victory in 2016.
Chaves led several fundraising initiatives to help the athletic department grow and keep pace with other Division I programs, including new scoreboards for EWU’s football and basketball facilities, new seating and locker rooms, which support much of EWU’s athletic programs improve, and the installation of Eastern’s Strike Red Turf on the soccer field on campus. Chaves also negotiated a cross-departmental apparel deal with Adidas.
*Alec Stocker Johnson, AND Athletics