MOORHEAD — Minnesota State University Moorhead is set to find its next athletic director after the last of three public forums with the three finalists took place Friday at Comstock Memorial Union on campus.
Daniel Garrett was the third finalist to speak in front of a crowd of approximately 20 MSUM staff and fans. The other two finalists, Tom Wagganer, Lindenwood University’s senior assistant athletic director, and Chad Markuson, MSUM’s acting athletic director, took questions from the audience earlier this week.
Garrett, a Kansas City native, is currently the athletic director for Presentation College, a private Catholic school in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Garrett has held this position since April 2021.
PC has an enrollment of approximately 800 undergraduate students, offering 10 varsity sports at the NAIA level.
Prior to that, he served as Senior Associate Director of Athletics for Internal and External Operations at NCAA Division II California State University Los Angeles from 2015-21. Prior to CSU, he served as Associate Director of Athletics at NAIA University Langston of Langston, Oklahoma, from 2012 to 2014.
Garrett took the job at PC because he and his wife wanted a stronger sense of community that they didn’t necessarily get in the big city.
“I loved the city, but it was time to see something else,” Garrett said during Friday’s forum. “I got married a few years ago, and my wife and I were like, ‘Let’s go see what else is out there.’ That’s how we got to Aberdeen and I tell everyone it was a calculated decision it wasn’t to throw darts at the map but there were a few places we looked and eventually , we were looking for something a little bit more tight-knit and community-based, and we found it and loved it and the quality of life changed overnight.
“That’s definitely part of the appeal of the Moorhead and Fargo area. Aberdeen is about 25,000 (people), so I know it’s more of a bigger city, but when you go from 15 million down to less of 4 million, it’s basically a city, so I imagine the vibe here is probably quite similar to Aberdeen and other places I’ve been.
Throw mission and vision statements out the window, as Garrett opened the formal part of his presentation by saying that none of these issues matter unless action is taken.
“I talked about a vision (today), and visions are great… mission statements and all those things, but they don’t mean anything unless you enact them.
“We want to succeed and hold ourselves to high standards, to continue to raise the standards and expectations that range from competition, to the classroom, to community involvement. And if we don’t always meet those standards, It’s okay, but we want to expect that from ourselves. It’s about expecting that work ethic, to be invested in the university and the community like the university is invested in our students- athletes. The vision is to really raise those standards and those expectations, and I guarantee you, when we set them higher, we’re going to start meeting them. And then we’re going to set them a little higher. That’s what you want to do, you always want to push the boundaries that way.
Garrett ended his introduction by saying that serving student-athletes in the best way possible is high on his list of priorities before opening the room for questions.
Garrett answered about 15 questions from those in attendance on topics including fundraising, community involvement, the current state of college athletics and more.
“In terms of niche, each university or school or university has its own bread and butter of what works, whether it’s special events or corporate sponsorships, annual funds and things of that nature” , Garrett said of fundraising strategies. “There are two other universities or colleges of higher learning in town, but nonetheless, I think it’s a community that would appreciate if we gave of ourselves and then returned the favor and brought that back. What does that mean sponsorships Corporate or Pride of Dragon or something like that.
“When I’m in the community and I’m giving service and meeting people and showing an investment on my part…and being able to communicate and embrace that vision of how we’re helping our student-athletes prepare for whatever their next attempt, people return the favor.”
Garrett also answered questions about what he would tell student-athletes to be successful, how to develop leaders such as coaches and other athletic department staff, collaboration between different campus departments and organizations, and Moreover.
Garrett earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Southern California in 2018, before earning a JD degree from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles in 2011.
The forum ended with an audience member asking Garrett what makes him the best candidate for the job.
“It’s a big opportunity here,” he said. “I definitely have the energy and the creativity. It’s probably a new and different perspective on things. It’s neither good nor bad in terms of departments, maybe a little complacent at times. I don’t try not always about being at the forefront of things. It’s something I call it strategically progressive, but we’re taking hits for sure. It’s not reckless, but we want to continue to improve and push the boundaries in a constructive way, and that’s something I bring.
“I tell people, ‘Make It Happen’, that’s what my dad always told me. As soon as I started with an excuse, it stopped. Make it, make it happen. It is what I do and I’m proud of I can come here and make it happen.
The school hopes to make a decision on a candidate by the end of the month.