Washington University’s John Schael enters his 35th year as director of athletics on the Danforth Campus. The 2000 and 2008 Division III Central Region winner of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) award, Schael has helped orchestrate the Bears' athletics transformation into one of the top departments in Division III.
Since his arrival in 1978, Washington University has totaled 167 NCAA appearances, 151 University Athletic Association (UAA) titles, and 19 national championships. On Jan. 26, 2007, Schael was inducted into the Washington University Sports Hall of Fame, joining nine members of the Class of 2006.
Schael directed the Bears to a second-place finish in the 2011-12 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup Division III standings. The second-place finish is tied for the highest in school history and the Bears’ 10th-straight top-10 appearance.
In 2007-08, he guided the Bears to a school-record three NCAA Division III national championships and a second-place finish in the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup, which rates athletics programs from around the country. In 2004-05, the Bears won 11 UAA titles which is a school and UAA record. Washington University also finished a then program-best third in the Directors’ Cup.
Schael has been instrumental in creating the foundation for Washington University’s success. In 1981, he resurrected the men’s basketball program after a 10-year hiatus and witnessed the debut of the Lopata Basketball Classic in 1984. Schael also helped with the addition of several women’s programs at Washington University: cross country (1979), basketball (1980), indoor track and field (1987), soccer (1989), softball (2000) and golf (2008).
Schael was also involved in the construction and renovation of new athletic facilities, at a cost of nearly $15 million, from 1983-1985. In 1986, Schael, along with other Washington University administrators, played a key role in the formation of the UAA, one of the finest conferences in all of collegiate athletics.
He helped bring about WU’s assistance in the hosting of the 1986 AAU/USA National Junior Olympic Games and the 1987 and 1989 National Senior Olympic Games in St. Louis. Washington U. also was a venue for the 1984 U.S. Olympic Festival. Schael was instrumental in the creation of the W Club, WU’s fundraising organization, in 1988, and in 1992, the first induction ceremony was held for Washington University’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Some of Schael’s more recent accomplishments include the development of the McWilliams Fitness Center, the Washington University Hall of Champions in 2002, and the installation of FieldTurf on Francis Field in the summer of 2004. Additionally, the inception of women’s basketball’s McWilliams Classic in 2001 and volleyball’s Teri Clemens Invitational in 2003 have further enhanced the progress of athletics at WU.
The volleyball team won the school’s first national title in 1989 before reeling off six in a row from 1991-96. With the 2003, 2007 and 2009 volleyball championships, the Bears own the Division III record for most titles in volleyball with 10.
The women’s basketball team also won four consecutive national titles from 1998-2001, and picked up its fifth championship in 2010. The men’s basketball team won back-to-back national championships in 2008 and 2009, while the men’s tennis teams picked up their first national title in 2008 and the women’s cross country won its first championship in 2011.
Schael has served on many committees during his tenure at Washington University, including the NCAA Classification Committee from 1983-86 and the NCAA Council (Division III) from 1987-91. He has also served on the Board of Directors for the St. Louis Sports Commission, the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship Committee, and in 1996, he served as president of the National Association of Division III Athletic Administrators, an organization he helped establish. Schael also was a presenter at the 2002 NCAA Title IX Seminar.
Prior to his time at WU, Schael worked at the University of Chicago from 1968-78. He was the wrestling coach throughout his stay and the associate director of physical education and athletics from 1974-78.
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Schael graduated from Euclid High School in 1962. He attended Miami University (Ohio) and earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1966 after lettering four years in wrestling and one in baseball. Schael earned his master’s degree from Miami in administration and physical education in 1968. He was inducted into Miami’s Hall of Fame in 1983 and his high school’s in 1990.
Schael and his wife, Linda, have one daughter, Erin.