Athletic director Mike Roth, who has guided Gonzaga University’s sports programs to unprecedented success competitively and in the classroom during his 24-year tenure, is retiring.
Roth will step down, effective Aug. 31, the school announced Monday. He has 34 years of experience at Gonzaga, beginning in 1982-83 as an assistant men’s basketball coach.
The school has scheduled a news conference for Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“I have been blessed to be able to serve Gonzaga as the AD for all these years,” Roth said in a GU release. “I am beyond grateful to everyone that has been a part of my experience here at Gonzaga, there’s far too many to thank and name at this time. I do want to single out (Gonzaga president) Dr. Thayne McCulloh, and thank him for all his support and making this all possible.”
Roth’s imprint is prominent throughout the athletic department. He’s hired every current head coach. He’s overseen the addition of numerous new or upgraded facilities, including the McCarthey Athletic Center, Patterson Baseball Complex and Volkar Center.
“Gonzaga athletics has been fundamentally transformed under Mike’s tenure of dedicated and exemplary leadership,” McCulloh said. “His commitment to our student-athletes, coaches, staff and the Spokane community has been the foundation upon which success has been sustained, raising the profile of Gonzaga athletics to national prominence.”
Chris Standiford, who has been at Gonzaga since 1993 and currently serves as deputy director of athletics and chief operating officer, is considered a strong candidate to be Roth’s successor.
Roth has been a key figure in the emergence of Gonzaga’s basketball programs on the national stage. He hired men’s coach Mark Few in 1999 and the last two women’s coaches – Kelly Graves in 2000 and Lisa Fortier in 2014.
The men’s program has played in or qualified for every NCAA Tournament since 1999. The Zags have advanced to two Final Fours, falling in the national championship game in 2017 and last season.
“It has been an incredible blessing and rewarding 24 years of having Mike as our Director of Athletics,” Few said. “Without Mike, this entire era of growth and success never would have occurred. It has been a great partnership and one I feel so lucky to have been part of.”
Gonzaga women’s basketball has played in 12 NCAA Tournaments since 2007 with four Sweet 16s, including an Elite Eight in 2011.
“The culture we have here at Gonzaga is so much about the consistency of our leadership, and the impact he has had on all of us and our programs,” Fortier said. “I have spent 16 years here, and he has coached me through my time as a graduate assistant, director of operations, assistant coach and head coach.
“Mike leads with great integrity and humility, and has always made my job better. I am so grateful that he believed in me as a coach, and entrusted me to lead our program.”
Roth takes enormous pride in the academic achievements of Gonzaga athletes. The school has been No. 1 or No. 2 nationally in NCAA Academic Progress Rate each of the last four years.
The Bulldogs have averaged at least a 3.0 grade-point average in 44 consecutive semesters dating back to the fall of 1998. More than 3,500 athletes have made the President’s list (3.7 GPA or higher) and 25 have earned Academic All-America honors during Roth’s tenure.
Roth’s connection to Gonzaga will continue in an unspecified capacity “as he has agreed to stay on for several years to continually support and grow Gonzaga’s athletic programs,” according to the school release.
“Demonstrating a continuous commitment to the success of Gonzaga athletics, Mike has accepted my invitation to continue serving Gonzaga, following a well-earned break,” McCulloh said.
Roth pursued other coaching opportunities after his stint as a GU basketball assistant in 1983. He returned to Gonzaga in 1987 as an assistant athletic director/Martin Centre director. He held that position until being named acting athletic director in 1997. He became the permanent athletic director in September 1998.
Roth has twice been named Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year (2008-09 and 2018-19).