Sports & Recreation

New Athletic Director, New Era

Chris McIntosh ’04, MS’19 embraces change.

Chris McIntosh at Camp Randall Stadium

McIntosh: “We will capture opportunity, and we will adapt.” Jeff Miller

It’s clear that Chris McIntosh ’04, MS’19 is prepared for change.

“We will embrace the change that comes our way, and we will capture opportunity, and we will adapt,” said the UW’s new athletic director during his introductory press conference in June.

McIntosh, previously Barry Alvarez’s right-hand man as deputy athletic director, assumes leadership of the Department of Athletics at a time of great uncertainty in college sports. Pressured by state laws, the NCAA is easing restrictions on a student-athlete’s ability to profit from his or her name, image, and likeness. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled against limiting education-related benefits for student-athletes and signaled skepticism about the NCAA’s amateurism model.

It was McIntosh’s realistic assessment of such challenges that helped him rise to the top of a national search for the athletic director position, according to Chancellor Rebecca Blank.

“He is uniquely positioned to continue our proud traditions of success on and off the field and doing things ‘the right way,’ ” Blank said. “Chris will build upon those traditions and has a strong vision for leading the program during a time of change in college athletics.”

McIntosh’s ties to the program run deep. He played offensive tackle for the Badger football squad in the late 1990s, serving as captain for consecutive Rose Bowl–winning teams. A first-round draft pick, McIntosh retired early from the NFL because of a neck injury. He launched several successful startups before returning to the UW in 2014 as the associate athletic director for business development. Promoted in 2017, he began overseeing the day-to-day operations of the department under Alvarez while earning a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy analysis.

“He epitomizes the transformational power of the student-athlete experience at Wisconsin,” the retiring Alvarez said in a statement. “He loves the Badgers and will put out everything he has into building upon the foundation that has been established.”

For all the talk of change, McIntosh made it clear that one thing will remain consistent. “Education will be the top priority of our department,” he said.

And he made a promise to every UW student-athlete.

“I will always put you first. Always,” he said. “No matter where you are from, what sport you play, scholarship or walk-on, it doesn’t matter — we are part of the same family. The student-athlete experience here at Wisconsin can be transformational. Those that take full advantage of that opportunity are served for the rest of their lives.”

Published in the Fall 2021 issue


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