The search is over.
Donald Oberhelman, who was the senior associate athletic director at San Diego State, is set to succeed Alison Cone and become Cal Poly’s new director of athletics effective April 4, President Jeffrey Armstrong said in a press conference Monday.
It marks the end of what has been a three-month-long search process, and Armstrong could not be happier to have Oberhelman as a Mustang.
“Don has a wealth of experience,” Armstrong said. “He is a rising star and he is going to be a star with us for a long time … this is our guy.”
Prior to his position at San Diego State, where he started in Feb. 2007, Oberhelman was the senior associate athletic director at Southern Miss. Even before that, he was the education coordinator at Texas A&M from July 1998 to Feb. 2002 and a compliance assistant at Florida State for almost three years (Nov. 1995-July 1998).
Now, Oberhelman can add Cal Poly to his list of experience.
“I am so delighted to be here,” Oberhelman said. “The opportunity to apply for this job was just too good to pass up. (I) fell in love with Cal Poly in (my) time here and couldn’t be more happy to be here.”
It is the first time in Oberhelman’s career he will be an athletics director. He served an interim athletics director for four months at San Diego State, but that is the most experience he has had in his career under that job title.
However, Oberhelman is ready for the challenge.
“For the first time in my career I have seen an athletics director transition,” Oberhelman said, of San Diego State’s recent switch. “And other than going through the interview process once before, that is probably the most educational thing I’ve had happen to me in my career, seeing a new athletic director come into a new program and watching, learning how to make a transition work.”
Although the biggest challenge Oberhelman said he would face at Cal Poly is the California State University (CSU) shrinking budget. But, it is manageable obstacle.
“I don’t think that is going to be too big a challenge,” Oberhelman said. “Because I think everybody in the CSU system faces that challenge, I think everybody in California faces that challenge and I think everybody in the country faces that challenge, to various degrees.”
Dealing with a shrinking budget will be a big part of what is widely considered Cal Poly’s next step to becoming a bigger Division I program. With a facility like Mott Gym that has a capacity of 3,032 — which dwarfs in comparison to San Diego State’s Viejas Arena, which seats 12,414 — Cal Poly isn’t going to attract the top-level recruits.
Assessing where Cal Poly needs upgrades is one of the first things Oberhelman will address, he said.
“We’re not going get the type of student athlete that is focused on athletics first with those facilities,” Oberhelman said. “They are going to come here for an education, and that’s OK, but I think in order to raise our profile a little bit, we need to address that.”
Oberhelman beat out current Indiana State athletics director Ron Prettyman and current Portland State athletics director Torre Chisholm for the job. He is set to make a $182,496 salary, but there is no price tag on the success Oberhelman may potentially bring to Cal Poly athletics.
“It’s a great day to be a Mustang,” Armstrong said.