Dr. Richard Sander, who led Virginia Commonwealth’s athletic program for 20 years, was introduced as ETSU's interim Director of Intercollegiate Athletics on Jan. 15, 2013, and was later named to the permanent role in June of 2013.
Sander replaced longtime athletic director Dave Mullins.
“I am extremely excited to be given the opportunity to help ETSU move forward and build on the tremendous progress that has been achieved by the Buccaneer student-athletes under the direction of Dave Mullins and his coaches and staff,” Sander said. “I had the privilege to be involved in the Committee for 125 strategic planning process, and it became clear that ETSU, under the visionary leadership of President Noland, has unlimited potential to become a major player on the national higher education landscape.
“It is an honor to have this opportunity to work with Dr. Noland, Coach Mullins and the students, faculty, staff, and alumni of ETSU, as well as our donors and members of the Tri-Cities region, as we shape the future of the university and its intercollegiate athletics program. During the upcoming six months, there will be significant opportunities for ETSU to position itself and to set the course for years to come.”
Sander retired as athletic director from VCU in 2006 and later founded Docdi Consulting, LLC, which specializes in brand-enhancement initiatives and strategic planning working with such programs as Gonzaga, George Mason, Western Kentucky and the Colonial Athletic Association. During his tenure, the VCU Rams claimed 27 CAA (Colonial Athletic Association) championship titles and made deep runs in the NCAA tournaments in men’s basketball, men and women’s tennis, golf, men and women’s soccer and baseball. Sander also oversaw nearly $40 million in capital improvements for VCU athletic facilities. These additions included the construction of Alltel Pavilion, which has been recognized as one of the nation’s top home court advantage for men and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball teams while also serving as a venue for numerous special events.
Other additions included Sports Backers Stadium, home to the men’s and women’s soccer and men’s and women’s track teams, and also a new sports medicine building.
Sander was influential in bringing numerous NCAA championship competitions to the Richmond area, including the 2007 NCAA Golf Championship, the 1992 NCAA Field Hockey Championship, the 1994 NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four, the 2000 Women’s Basketball East Regional Championship, and the 2000 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship. Additionally, VCU has hosted national championship events in men’s basketball, tennis and golf.
Sander also created, developed and implemented the nationally recognized Villa 7 program that helps prepare the next generation of head basketball coaches. Since its creation in 2002, over 50 current head basketball coaches have come through Villa 7 including Anthony Grant (Alabama), Shaka Smart (VCU), Buzz Williams (Marquette), John Groce (Illinois) and Josh Pastner (Memphis).
While at VCU, Sander created the VCU SportsCenter, an innovative graduate program that offers a master’s degree in sport leadership. The SportsCenter provides students the opportunity to receive practical, hands-on experience in the sport industry. He also established VCU’s Office of Student-Athlete Advising as an on-campus resource that offers academic advisors, tutors and student-athlete workrooms, and the Non-curricular Educational Support Training program, created to assist student-athletes in completing their degrees.
After retiring from VCU, he remained as director of the SportsCenter until 2008.
Sander began his career as head basketball coach at Howard High School in Chattanooga from 1970-1971 and later as an assistant at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
In 1972, he moved to Cincinnati to serve as head basketball coach at Anderson High School, a post he held until 1982 when he became Assistant Athletic Director and was responsible for athletic fundraising at Memphis State University (now The University of Memphis). In 1986, he left Memphis to take the job at VCU. His duties expanded in 1994 when assumed the title of assistant to the president.
Sander earned a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga in 1968. He received a M.S. in Physical Education from Xavier University in 1974, and a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Cincinnati in 1980. Sander and his wife, Mary, have a daughter, Leslie, and son, Jim, and one grandson, Jack.
"Dr. Sander is an esteemed leader in the field of intercollegiate athletics, and we are honored to have him join the ETSU family and to lead our program into this new era," said ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland. "The university is in the process of defining where we want to be as an institution in the next five, 10, and 25 years, and having Dr. Sander's expertise will be especially vital as we envision the future of our athletics program."