Nevada athletic director Doug Knuth believes in good fortune.
Knuth has accumulated more than 25 years of professional experience in the business, but he credits his hard work toward a few good breaks and valuable lessons learned along the way.
“I’m really lucky to how I fell into this career,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of help from great people and a few special opportunities. But it’s been amazing and very rewarding, so I’m grateful to be working in this position.”
Growing up in Fairfield, Conn., Knuth envisioned a career as a financial advisor on the east coast. Luckily for the Pack, he found another path. Under Knuth, Nevada has become a premier destination for Division-I sports, head coaching hires, facility upgrades and community engagement since he was hired in April of 2013.
“My dream job was to work at Wall Street,” he said. “Growing up nearly 40 minutes from Manhattan, the vast majority of my family got on the train every morning to go to work. I always thought that would be me, but I got lucky.”
In his seventh season at Nevada, Knuth has been at the forefront of several athletic facility additions at the university. Many of the athletic establishments seen on campus were spurred by his intuition and development.
His most recent projects include new video scoreboards for Don Weir Field at Peccole Park and Hixson Park for the Nevada baseball and softball teams. This comes on the heels of new FieldTurf installations at Wolf Pack Park for Nevada football practices.
Knuth and Nevada have also enhanced locker rooms for every Wolf Pack sport without a dedicated facility. The new improvements are added to Knuth’s slew of other accomplishments—which include the $11.5 million renovations to Mackay Stadium, six tennis courts at the McArthur Tennis Complex and the launch of the Ramon Sessions Basketball Performance Center.
Recruiting top-tier student-athletes is a focal point to Knuth’s position, and upgrades to athletic facilities around the university give a warm welcome to future Wolf Pack recruits.
“We want to recruit the best athletes to wear Wolf Pack uniforms. To do that, it takes great facilities and culture,” he said. “You have to have really good foundations in place for all of our sports…We have to continue to invest in our facilities because that’s what attracts the best student-athletes.”
Nevada has experienced growth and success in several sports during Knuth’s tenure. But student-athletes are making strides in the classroom, as well.
The Wolf Pack’s student-athletes have posted record numbers in the NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate and Academic Progress Report since Knuth has taken over. Nevada student-athletes have recorded 10-straight semesters of a cumulative 3.0-grade point average or better.
As a result, Nevada won the Mountain West Community Service Award in 2018 for the second time in three seasons. Knuth has put the roots in place to help student-athletes find opportunities away from sports.
“Almost every one of our athletes is going to have a second career,” he said. “Our job is to prepare each of our athletes for life after school because it’s vitally important…We need to prepare our athletes to be successful in the classroom just like any other student. We’re all learning how to build a career in the end, it’s our job to get them ready.”
Before his arrival to Nevada, Knuth served as the Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Relations at the University of Utah. From 2005-12, Knuth led Utah to record fundraising numbers throughout each of his eight seasons.
He helped the Utes raise efforts in ticketing, fundraising and marketing, which earned him a spot on Utah’s senior staff. During his tenure, Knuth launched a $150 million comprehensive athletics campaign and helped doubled the Utes’ annual fund in just five years.
Utah and Nevada offer different landscapes for Knuth’s collegiate journey. But the sports engagement within both of the local communities caught his eye.
“The thing that’s similar between them is the passion in both communities,” he said. “Reno is a great sports town like Utah… They’re both really neat places and I’ve learned something different about myself in each one.”
Knuth has grown familiar with different colleges as a student and administrator. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration at the University of Connecticut in 1994, where he was a four-year letter winner for the men’s tennis team.
Knuth earned his master’s degree in sports administration and facility management from Ohio University in 1998. He also holds a master’s degree in business administration from Northwood University in 2002.
Additionally, Knuth served as the assistant athletic director for development for Michigan State University from 2000-05. He helped manage the expansion of Spartan Stadium through suite and club seat sales.
Even with his experience and accomplishments, Knuth still relishes his ability to help student-athletes take the next step in their lives.
“It’s great to help athletes transform into adults and help them play the sports that they love,” he said. “That’s one of the things that goes unnoticed that I try to cherish.”
Knuth will continue his role as the behind-the-scenes mastermind for Nevada athletics. He signed a five-year deal in 2018 to remain at the helm for the Wolf Pack, which was first reported by Nevada Sports Net.
Although future facility upgrades and additions remain unknown, one thing for certain is Knuth will work diligently to keep Nevada as a top-tier athletic program. His work to improve the university thus far deserves plenty of time in the limelight, but Knuth tries his best to avoid any attention.
“Whatever attention I get is too much. All the attention should be on the university and our student-athletes,” he said. “Any leftover attention should go to the coaches and their great job. We’re here to help this program be successful in all aspects of life… I’m in this business to serve and help and I’m comfortable being behind the scenes, no one should know who I am.”
Isaiah Burrows can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.