New AD Christina Roybal reflects on path to NKU, what’s next for athletics
September 18, 2022
Changes have been abounding at NKU’s athletic department over the past year, but there’s arguably been no bigger announcement than the arrival of Christina Roybal as the university’s new athletic director.
Roybal, who officially took over the position on June 1, will be filling some big shoes left behind by previous athletic director Ken Bothof, who retired on Jan. 5 after serving for nine years and helping NKU take the leap to Division I athletics.
But Roybal has experience that will help her in this regard, as she previously held a position at the University of Northern Iowa as the Senior Associate Athletics Director for Sports Administration and the Deputy Title IX Coordinator. Before that, she climbed the ladder at Fresno State University, eventually reaching the title of assistant athletic director for administrative operations.
“[While at Fresno State] I became a generalist, and as such, I have a great appreciation for the work staff and units within an athletics department,” Roybal said. “Some of the experiences that I believe made me uniquely qualified for this position include working on a strategic plan, developing a gender equity plan, assessing the needs of sports programs, developing partnerships with divisions and units across campus, engaging with the community, and building strong relationships with the league and colleagues across the league.”
With NKU being a smaller school in a big market in college athletics, the school’s AD has the unique challenge of providing incentives and programs to attract athletes who will be competitive on the field while providing experiences off the field that will help them gain real-world experience.
“NKU is primed for success and growth within the region and nationally, and I am excited about leading Norse Athletics as a very visible and vital department contributing to the University’s overall mission,” she commented.
The opportunity at NKU also resonated with Roybal because it aligns with her values. With NKU being a university that fosters college and civic opportunities across the region – much like Fresno State and UNI – it gave her the edge over other candidates for the job.
“I know the value athletics brings to the institution and the region,” Roybal said. “At regional comprehensives, we attract a special type of student-athlete that will be not only impactful in athletics but also make an impact in the community.”
Roybal is currently very confident with the state of athletics at NKU. Despite the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic brought to college athletics, she said that she doesn’t just look to get the athletic department back to where it was pre-pandemic, but to “kick it up a notch” and exceed the expectations placed upon a Horizon League school.
“As we think about what truly matters for our department, it is about giving our student-athletes the very best Division I college experience we can provide,” Roybal said. “It is about being a leader in the Horizon League and improving our standings in all sports in order to elevate our presence and make us known. It is about telling our community who we are and why they do not want to miss out on what we have to offer.”
With that goal in mind, Roybal said that the athletic department is always looking for ways to grow, stating that more roster spots on teams, adding a women’s sports program and creating new facilities are among the goals for the future of Norse athletics.
“We can only grow with the support of the campus, community and donors, so it is important that we also be looking for opportunities to be visible and engaged,” Roybal said.
Ken Bothof was a huge boost for the athletic department and is a name that will live forever in Norse history, but it seems that Roybal has the vision to etch her name as a huge contributor to the growth of NKU athletics as well.