Gary Walters, Princeton's Director of Athletics and the former chair of the NCAA Division I men's basketball committee, has been named one of the 100 Most Influential Sports Educators in America by the Institute for International Sport. Walters is joined on the list by Princeton alums Frank Deford and Alex Wolff, both of whom are well-known and well-respected sports journalists.
“In America and in many other countries, we honor elite athletes, winning coaches, wealthy team owners and media moguls. We praise sports educators yet we really do not honor them in a manner befitting their admirable impact on society,” said Dan Doyle, the executive director of the Institute. “This project is aimed at honoring individuals and organizations who have creatively and effectively used sport in the very best way - as a means to educate and shape positive values,” he concluded.
The final list of 100 was chosen after the Institute received more than 1,500 nominations.
Walters was chosen for his five-decade career that has seen him hold almost every role there is in college athletics. He began as a point guard at Princeton on the 1965 NCAA Final Four team, and from there he has gone to be an assistant coach at Princeton, a head coach on the Division I and Division III levels, a broadcaster, the Athletic Director at Princeton for the last 14 years and a member and then chair of the powerful Division I men's basketball committee.
At Princeton Walters has overseen an athletic department that sponsors 38 varsity sports and annually has more than 1,000 student-athletes. During his tenure, Princeton teams have won 144 Ivy League championships, which is 53 more than the next-highest total in the league during that time.
Beyond the success on the field, Walters has also been deeply committed to enhancing the student-athlete experience on campus, and to that end he has engineered major changes to almost every area of athletic life at Princeton. Since he became AD, Princeton has had almost a complete overhaul of its athletic facilities, including the building of Princeton Stadium, Shea Rowing Center and Weaver Track and Field Stadium; the renovation and expansion of the locker rooms, especially for women's teams and athletes; and the current construction of a new soccer stadium.
Walters has also created and expanded the Princeton Academic Athletic Fellows program, which has provided student-athletes with faculty members and administrators who serve as an outlet for any academic, athletic or social issues that may arise. He has also developed the Princeton Varsity Club, which has benefited from the support of alumni and friends to fund any number of initiatives, such as the the PVC weight room, the Jake McCandless '51 Speaker Series, the Senior Athlete Awards banquet, the freshman-sophomore barbecue and a mentoring program.
Walters also spent the last five years serving on the men's basketball committee, for which he was chair a year ago. Walters was instrumental in a movement towards a more equitable selection process, one that has led to greater inclusiveness in the tournament for the so-called "mid-major" schools.
In addition to Walters, the list also recognized Frank Deford '61 and Alexander Wolff '83, sportswriters who have written for Sports Illustrated, authored several books each and been frequent contributors on television and radio.
Bob Kanaby, the Executive Director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, was also honored. Kanaby's son Steve is Princeton's Assistant Director for Event Operations.
Other notables on the list include former UCLA men's basketball coach John Wooden, NCAA executive director Myles Brand, Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt, sociologist Dr. Harry Edwards, Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner Kersee, Special Olympics chair Eunice Kennedy-Shriver, NBA Hall of Fame member Bill Russell, Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, television commentator Bob Costas, former tennis player Andre Agassi, and Rutgers women's basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer.
The complete list is available at www.internationalsport.com.