WKU’s Todd Stewart Tabbed No. 15 Athletic Director in NCAA

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — WKU Director of Athletics Todd Stewart was named the No. 15 AD in the nation Tuesday by the media outlet Stadium, based on past football and men’s basketball coaching hires.

The rankings, compiled by Stadium national reporters Brett McMurphy and Jeff Goodman, assigned grades to every athletic director’s football and men’s basketball hires during their entire career, and then assigned an overall grade.

The grades were based on the success of the coaches hired, difficulty of opponents in their respective conferences, bowl appearances, NCAA Tournament trips, conference titles and national championships won.

Stewart’s four football coaching hires received an A-minus grade, with his hire of men’s basketball head coach Rick Stansbury receiving a B. Overall, Stewart was granted a B-plus grade for his hires.

His ranking places him ahead of 52 Power Five athletic directors and first among C-USA ADs. Last week, Stadium ranked Stewart the No. 2 non-Power Five athletic director in the country behind UCF’s Danny White.

“It is certainly an honor anytime you are recognized favorably among a distinguished group of your peers,” Stewart said. “However, when a hire proves to be successful, what it really means is the head coach you hired, their staff and that program’s players achieved at a high level. We have been fortunate to have a very dedicated group of coaches and players at WKU, and this is validation that their achievements are being recognized and respected nationally.”

Stewart’s four football head coach hires – Bobby Petrino (2013), Jeff Brohm (2014-16), Mike Sanford (2017-18) and Tyson Helton (2019) – have won a combined 56 games in seven years, an average of eight wins per season, with back-to-back Conference USA championships in 2015 and 2016.

Those 56 wins include three victories over the SEC’s Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Arkansas. WKU also achieved its first top-25 ranking at the FBS level in 2015 at No. 24.

The Hilltoppers have been bowl eligible in six of the seven seasons under Stewart’s hires and have won four of the five bowl games they’ve competed in since 2014. The latest of those victories in the 2019 First Responder Bowl was recently valued in excess of $13 million in media exposure for the school, with the full season valuing at nearly $35 million.

The Hilltoppers have had nine NFL Draft picks since 2014 with other undrafted free agents also making an impact in the league, including 2019 Super Bowl champion Deon Yelder.

On the men’s basketball side, Rick Stansbury has won 82 games in four seasons since his hire in 2016 while rejuvenating the fan base with Diddle Arena’s largest season attendance since the venue’s 2002 renovation.

In the 2018-19 season, Diddle Arena sold out of season tickets in the preseason for the first time since opening in 1963.

The Hilltoppers reached the C-USA title game in both 2018 and 2019, and entered the 2020 tournament as the No. 2 seed before all play was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

WKU is one of 44 teams in the country to win at least 20 games in each of the last three seasons, and its 67 wins over the last three years lead Conference USA.

WKU has done its best work against the best competition, going 8-4 against Power Five opponents in the last three seasons. That includes a run to the NIT Final Four in 2018 that helped the Hilltoppers defeat opponents from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac 12 in the same season for the first time in program history.

Under Stewart, WKU has never employed a search firm for any hire.