Director of Athletics Dave King will retire this summer after 17 years of service to his alma mater and the Royals athletics program. (Photo by Rachel Holderman/EMU)

EMU Director of Athletics Dave King announces his retirement

Eastern Mennonite University Director of Athletics Dave King announced today that he will retire June 30, 2022.

EMU’s second and longest-serving director of athletics, King has led the Royals program for 17 years, since coming to the position in 2005 from a similar role at Lancaster Mennonite School. He has spent more than 40 years in Mennonite education and athletics administration.

Dave King, director of athletics at Eastern Mennonite University, with President Susan Schultz Huxman in Yoder Arena, 2017.

“Dave King has been an  unwavering passionate voice and exemplary model for the very best of the student-athlete experience at EMU, upholding our mission as an academically rigorous and faith-informed institution,” said President Susan Schultz Huxman. While competitiveness in one of the best NCAA Division III conferences in the country is important, she adds, King “has never lost sight that real success comes when students grow in their academic preparation, service and leadership, and faith. He instills that same drive and enthusiasm in his coaches.” 

Over the past 17 years, King has been involved in hiring coaches and support staff for 17 teams; worked to enhance the EMU Royals brand; and raised the reputation of EMU athletics in the region and the conference. Countless numbers of Royals athletes have achieved conference, regional and national honors in both academics and athletics.

“I am grateful to EMU for giving me the opportunity to fulfill my calling and desire to impact the lives of young people through sports,” King said. “Witnessing and sharing firsthand the growth and development of student-athletes has been a true joy and privilege. Though the integration of athletics within the context of Mennonite higher education has sometimes proven challenging, the rewards are clear and it’s also been a privilege to have a role in educating people about that value.”

King expressed appreciation for the partnership of coaches and other athletics staff in staying true to the vision of sport as the complexion of D-III athletics has changed dramatically: “EMU coaches have continued to center our student-athletes through the challenges of escalating recruitment wars, the rise of social media and increasing costs. I am so grateful for their collective commitment to creating competitive environments in which our student-athletes can experience success and learn valuable lessons that will continue to impact them long after graduation.”

Dave King with the members of the 2016 baseball team.

During King’s tenure, the number of student-athletes has grown steadily. Now more than a third of undergraduates participate in intercollegiate athletics. Growth of athletic teams and programming was identified as part of a 2018 enrollment plan. Consideration of the role of athletics to build on these gains continues under new leadership of Vice President for Enrollment and Strategic Growth Mary Jensen and as the university moves towards an updated Strategic Plan for 2023-26. 

King notes this is the right time to retire. “The challenges and rewards of integrating competitive athletics within Mennonite higher education will no doubt continue, but I appreciate EMU’s openness to embracing that challenge with a desire to provide a quality student-athlete experience. After 40 years of involvement, I feel this is a good time to step aside and clear the way for new leadership and fresh ideas. I am definitely looking forward to enjoying the perspective of simply being a Royals fan.”

Carrie Bert – assistant director of athletics, Senior Woman Administrator (SWA), and former head women’s volleyball coach – has valued King’s unique relational perspective. 

“Dave has always worked to create a space where assistant coaches could grow into head coaches or coaches could add administrative skills and responsibilities,” she said. “His holistic approach to the student-athlete experience applied similarly to how he has interacted with and developed his coaching staff. Many of us are appreciative and grateful for his expansive attentiveness to nurturing aspects of our professional selves that may have gone unnoticed elsewhere.”

Acknowledging limited staffing resources, King was the rare athletic director who chose to give countless hours at events to free his coaches up to “do the work of coaching,” Bert said. ““This investment in observing coaches and athletes during competition has also helped build trust and understanding. He continued to listen and learn from coaches about their experiences building rosters over these past several years, with an attentiveness to change, including an increasingly competitive conference and the challenges of recruiting to a small, Christian school. It has been clear that he has a deep love for EMU and for EMU athletics.” 

Dave King with former head men’s basketball coach Kirby Dean.

King most recently led the Royals athletics program through the COVID-19 pandemic, which included the suspension of the spring and fall 2020 seasons, the spring 2021 season in which all 17 sports participated in competition, and a return to regular competition schedules in fall 2021. He and his staff worked tirelessly, implementing NCAA testing regimens and developing EMU-specific health protocols to preserve, as much as possible, the EMU athletics experience for Royals student-athletes.

King has brought a holistic view of the student-athlete’s role within the larger university community, liaising in formal and informal settings to create a stronger relationship between athletics and academics

“I’ve always appreciated Dave’s support for the DIII vision of the student-athlete as fully integrated into rigorous academics, competitive athletics and co-curricular activities,” said Professor Matt Siderhurst, NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative for the past six years.

Since the 2015-16 academic year, at least 100 Royals student-athletes have been named to the annual ODAC All-Academic Team.

Among other accomplishments, King named facilities upgrades to the Turf Field and renovations to the baseball field, plans and a corresponding fundraising campaign for a new track and field complex, and the addition of women’s lacrosse and triathlon teams. He helped to launch a graduate assistant program in 2018, which jointly offers more professional opportunities for young coaches and aids current head coaches with staffing and resourcing. Growth of business partnerships, including Pepsi, UnderArmour and Quick’s Bus Company, have also contributed to the athletics program’s long-term viability. King also served as Old Dominion Athletic Conference president for two years.

He’ll also carry strong memories of athletics program highlights: two trips to the NCAA Tournament with the women’s basketball team; the 2010 men’s team reaching the Elite 8 in the NCAA tournament; the 2010 softball team, which came from an 8th seed to win the ODAC Championship; watching the first women’s home lacrosse match; and inducting athletes annually into EMU’s Hall of Honor.

King summarized insights gleaned from his years of involvement in youth, middle and high school, and university athletics in the 2016 publication, with co- author Margot Starbuck, of “Overplayed: A Parent’s Guide to Sanity in the World of Youth Sports” (Herald Press).

King’s ties to his alma mater and to the athletic program are strong. A 1976 graduate, he played soccer, basketball and baseball. He is married to Debra A. Glick King ‘77. The couple’s three children Derek King ‘03, Ryan King ‘07, and Lisa King Burkholder ‘08 were all student-athletes at EMU, involved in volleyball, basketball and field hockey, respectively. 

Discussion on “EMU Director of Athletics Dave King announces his retirement

  1. Thanks, Dave, for your many, many positive contributions to the educational mission of the Mennonite Church and to EMU in particular. Your passion for creating an environment for student-athletes to hone their gifts, experience opportunities to mature as leaders, and to integrate athletics with academics has served us well.

    Your leadership involvements in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference were deeply appreciated by your peers and the ODAC presidents.

    Best wishes as you finish well and transition to a new stage of life!

  2. Congratulations Dave on all of your accomplishments especially creating connections between athletics, academia, & faith. Blessings in the next season of life.

  3. Congratulations on such an amazing and successful career in leading our athletes to leadership roles on and off the sports realm. You will always be loved, respected and honored for your drive, dedication, and passion on and off the sports/athletic spectrum. I’ve had the privilege of seeing that dedication to students not just in the athletic realm but your “Average Joe”….. Thank you for seeing above and beyond those that you came across with. Much love and blessings!!!

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