Chris Ragsdale, HCAC commissioner, set to retire after academic year
The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference’s second-ever commissioner will be leaving the position in July.
After 10 years in the position, Chris Ragsdale is looking to partially retire from his 41-year career in higher education.
“I’m sure that I won’t get too far away from collegiate athletics,” he said. “I’m not sure what that looks like right now, but it certainly won’t be full time. I’m not leaving this position in an effort to look for something else.”
Throughout his career, Ragsdale served as the head men’s basketball coach and athletic director at several small, private colleges across the country before accepting the commissioner job with the HCAC.
“When looking at the conference, the job was advertised for individuals who have a certain skill set,” Ragsdale said. “I felt that because of my past experiences as a Division III head basketball coach and athletic director, I looked at it as a new and different leadership opportunity and a natural career progression for me.”
Under Ragsdale’s leadership, the HCAC gained new championship sports sponsorship with indoor track and field and, most recently, swimming and diving. This pushed the number of championship sports in the conference to 20.
Kerry Prather, Franklin College’s athletic director, said Ragsdale has done valuable work for the conference.
“He helped bring the parties together, most recently in swimming,” Prather said. “He has been in front of the movement to organize post-season events for our new sports.”
The HCAC has also made efforts to partner itself with other groups like the Special Olympics, a program that works to create opportunities for students with disabilities. Because of Ragsdale’s efforts, the HCAC is the only national conference to share a championship with the Special Olympics.
“Timing is everything,” Ragsdale said. “I was looking for something that we could get our conference involved in and ultimately involving all of our membership institutions.”
Ragsdale said Mike Furnish, the CEO of Special Olympics and former HCAC football referee, approached him with a plan to create some kind of bond between the organizations. The bond started as a one-time bowling event and has increased into the combined championship, which consists of more than 130 student athletes and Special Olympics athletes.
Prather said when looking back on Ragsdale’s legacy of a commissioner, it will be remembered as one of positive change, inclusion and fair treatment.
“What Chris has done in the 10 years he’s been here is really establish a much more consistent, visible and effective connection between our league and the NCAA,” Prather said. “He has been really helpful in serving as the interpreter of rules on behalf of the NCAA.”
The conference plans to hold a national search to fill the commissioner position.