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MSUM AD finalist talks community engagement, fundraising, serving student-athletes in last of public forums

Daniel Garrett, currently director of athletics at Presentation College in Aberdeen, S.D., was the third and final candidate to speak at a public forum at Comstock Memorial Union Friday

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Minnesota State University Moorhead athletic director candidate Daniel Garrett speaks to the crowd during a meet and greet event on Friday, April 22, 2022, at Comstock Memorial Union.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum
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MOORHEAD — Minnesota State University Moorhead is one step closer to finding its next director of athletics after the last of three public forums with the three finalists was held Friday at Comstock Memorial Union on campus.

Daniel Garrett was the third finalist to speak before a crowd of roughly 20 MSUM staffers and fans. The other two finalists, Lindenwood University senior associate athletics director Tom Wagganer and MSUM interim athletics director Chad Markuson, fielded questions from the public earlier this week.

Garrett, originally from Kansas City, currently serves as the director of athletics for Presentation College, a private Catholic school in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Garrett has held that position since April 2021.

PC has an enrollment of roughly 800 undergraduate students, offering 10 varsity sports at the NAIA level.

Before that, he served as senior associate athletics director for internal and external operations at NCAA Division II California State University Los Angeles from 2015-21. Prior to CSU, he had a stint as associate athletics director at NAIA Langston University in Langston, Oklahoma from 2012-14.

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Garrett took the job at PC because he and his wife wanted a stronger sense of community they didn't necessarily get in the big city.

"I loved the city, but it was time to see something else," Garrett said at Friday's forum. "I got married a few years ago, and my wife and I said, 'Let's go kind of see what else is out there.' That's how we made our way to Aberdeen and I tell everybody it was a calculated decision. It wasn't throwing darts at the map, but there were a few places we were kind of looking at and ultimately, we were looking for something a little bit more tight-knit and community based, and we found it and love it and the quality of life changed overnight.

"It's definitely a part of the appeal of the Moorhead and Fargo area. Aberdeen is about 25,000 (people), so I know this is more of a bigger city comparatively, but when you're coming from 15 million to under even 4 million, it's basically a town. So I'd imagine that the feel here is probably pretty similar across Aberdeen and some other places I've been."

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Minnesota State University Moorhead athletic director candidate Daniel Garrett chats with attendees before a meet and greet event on Friday, April 22, 2022, at Comstock Memorial Union.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

Throw mission and vision statements out the window, as Garrett opened the formal part of his presentation by saying neither of those matter unless action is taken.

"I've been speaking about a vision (today), and visions are great ... mission statements and all of those things, but they don't mean anything unless you enact it.

"We want to be successful and hold ourselves to high standards, continue to raise standards and expectations that go from being competitive, to the classroom, to being involved in the community. And if we don't always meet those standards, that's OK, but we want to expect that from ourselves. It's about expecting that work ethic, being invested in the university and the community as the university is invested in our student-athletes. The vision is to really raise those standards and expectations, and I guarantee, when we set them higher, we're going to start reaching them. And then we're going to set them a little higher. That's what you want to do, you always kind of want to be pushing the envelope that way."

Garrett finished his introduction by saying serving student-athletes in the best manner possible is near the top of his priority list before opening the room up for questions.

Garrett fielded roughly 15 questions from those in attendance touching on anything from fundraising, community engagement, the current state of college athletics and more.

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"In terms of sort of a niche, every university or school or university kind of has their 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's two other higher education universities or colleges in town, but nonetheless, I think this is a community that would appreciate us giving of ourselves and then reciprocating and bringing that back. Whether that means corporate sponsorships or getting Dragon pride going or something like that.

"When I'm out in the community and being of service and getting to meet people and showing an investment on my part ... and being able to communicate and taking that vision for how we're helping our student-athletes get prepared for whatever their next endeavor is, people reciprocate."

Garrett also fielded questions about what he would tell student-athletes in order to be successful, how to develop leaders such as coaches and other athletics department staff, collaboration between different campus departments and organizations and more.

Garrett graduated with a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Southern California in 2008, before earning a JD degree from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles in 2011.

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Minnesota State University Moorhead athletic director candidate Daniel Garrett speaks during a meet and greet event on Friday, April 22, 2022, at Comstock Memorial Union.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

The forum ended with an audience member asking Garrett what makes him the best candidate for the job.

"It's a great opportunity here," he said. "I definitely have the energy and creativity. It's probably a fresh, different perspective on things. It's not good or bad in terms of departments maybe getting a little complacent at times. Not always trying to be on the forefront of things. That's something I bring. I call it strategically progressive, but we take shots for sure. It's not reckless, but we want to continue to improve and push the envelopes in a constructive way, and that's something I bring.

"I tell people, 'Make It Happen,' is what my dad would always tell me. The minute I started with an excuse, it was shut down. Just do it, make it happen. That's what I do and I pride myself on that. I can come in here and make it happen."

The school hopes to make a decision on a candidate by the end of the month.

Ryan Spitza joined The Forum in December 2021 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Marquette, Mich., a city of 20,000 on the southern shore of Lake Superior. He majored in multimedia journalism and minored in public relations at Northern Michigan University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in May 2019. While attending college, Spitza gained real-world experience covering high school and college athletics for both The Mining Journal and The North Wind.

Spitza can be reached at 701-451-5613 or rspitza@forumcomm.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryspitza.
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