Since taking over as Jacksonville University’s Athletic Director on May 1, 2016, Alex Ricker-Gilbert has spearheaded a revitalization of JU Athletics with his visionary leadership.
Through his student-centered approach, JU Athletics has created an elite-level holistic experience for Dolphin student-athletes. Recent enhancements under Ricker-Gilbert’s direction include a new academic center and additional academic support staff, updated equipment in athletic training and the weight room, and partnerships with the Dietitians of Palm Valley (the Director of Performance Nutrition for the Jacksonville Jaguars), CRYOtherapy JAX, and a dedicated sport psychologist. Additionally, Ricker-Gilbert helped secure a significant private contribution that fully funded the first-ever nutritional station for Dolphin student-athletes, JU Fuel.
The investment in the student-athletes has paid off with outstanding success both in and out of the classroom. In the field of competition, the 2016-17 academic year was full of impressive team accomplishments, including a trio of NCAA Tournament or Championship appearances (women’s lacrosse, women’s rowing, men’s golf), invitations to play in both the CIT (men’s basketball) and WNIT (women’s basketball), two conference championship titles (women’s lacrosse, women’s rowing), and two conference regular season titles (men’s soccer, women’s lacrosse). Additionally, baseball and men’s soccer reached the conference tournament final, while men’s lacrosse reached the Southern Conference Tournament semifinals for the first time in program history.
Academically, the Dolphins have flourished under the guidance of Ricker-Gilbert. The 2017-18 year started off with a record-breaking fall semester, as the cumulative grade point average of the department was a 3.29 – the highest recorded in the history of the department. Eight of JU’s teams achieved their highest GPA ever; 18 of 20 teams finished with a 3.0 GPA or higher; nine teams had a 3.5 or better; and none of JU’s 20 teams posted a GPA under 2.9.
One of the Ricker-Gilbert’s major initiatives early in his tenure as Athletic Director was the creation and implementation of a distinct set of Core Values (hyperlink) for JU Athletics. Serving as just one example of his vigorous work to change the culture, the Core Values have elevated the day-to-day approach and collaboration within the department.
On the external side, JU Athletics has taken great strides forward under Ricker-Gilbert’s leadership. During his first year alone, the department saw a 23 percent increase in overall giving, an over 700 percent increase in unique donors, a 56 percent increase in sponsorship revenue, a 29 percent increase in ticketing revenue and a 15 percent increase in overall attendance. He has helped form impactful exclusivity partnerships with Nike/BSN (official apparel provider), Baptist Health and Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute (official healthcare provider), Learfield Licensing Partners, Baron (official ring provider), Papa John’s (official pizza of JU Athletics) and Bono’s Bar-B-Q (official bar-b-q of JU Athletics).
Hired as Associate Athletic Director of Compliance and Student-Athlete Services in November of 2014, Ricker-Gilbert was later promoted to Senior Associate Athletic Director on Jan. 8, 2016. He served in that capacity for just four months before being elevated to Athletic Director in May of that year, taking over for Chief Athletics Officer Dr. Donnie Horner, who led the athletic department from 2014-16.
"I'm ecstatic to lead the Athletic Department and thank President Cost for the opportunity,'' Ricker-Gilbert said. "For the past couple years I have had the benefit of Dr. Horner's mentoring and it has been a pleasure working with him. I look very forward to building on the great foundation of improvements laid by Dr. Horner in the future.''
Ricker-Gilbert came to Jacksonville having spent the previous three years as Assistant Athletics Director for Compliance and Student-Services at Longwood University in Virginia. From 2013-16, Ricker-Gilbert held Longwood’s senior compliance officer position for its 14 Division I programs and served as an academic advisor for the Lancers’ softball, men’s soccer, and men’s and women’s cross country teams. Ricker-Gilbert oversaw the scholarship budget, served as the SAAC Advisor, and was the liaison to financial aid, the registrar, admissions, and housing.
Chief Athletics Officer Dr. Donnie Horner was enthusiastic in his praise of Ricker-Gilbert, “Alex is a wonderful addition to our staff and the University. He knows the NCAA compliance business inside-out, and his hands-on knowledge of all facets of student-athlete support services is an immense plus. Alex has been at a host of great institutions -- Penn State, Villanova, West Chester, Longwood, and others -- and will hit the ground running on November 11th, and we’re proud to welcome him as a Dolphin.”
Prior to his time at Longwood, Ricker-Gilbert worked as the interim Compliance Director at Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne. At IPFW, he oversaw the development, implementation, and enforcement of the compliance program, conducted all rules education meetings with coaches, coordinated all academic operations for incoming freshmen, transfers and returning student-athletes, created and implemented new processes and procedures as necessary per NCAA legislation, provided all NCAA interpretations to coaches, staff and support groups, boosters, and student-athletes, and completed conference and NCAA required reports and waivers among his various other responsibilities.
While completing his master’s degree at West Chester University, Ricker-Gilbert worked as an intern in both the Villanova and West Chester University athletic departments. At Villanova, he coordinated community service events for student-athletes, assisted with senior preparatory programming, facilitated SAAC activities, and assisted in the coordination of the Champs/Life Skills program. At West Chester, he assisted in the oversight of the compliance program for WCU’s 24 athletic teams. Ricker-Gilbert maintained the compliance website, reviewed and updated eligibility documentation for student-athletes through the NCAA Eligibility Center and LSDBI, reported on the academic success rate of student-athletes, and served as an academic mentor for the Athletic Mentor program for WCU student-athletes.
A native of Tolland, Connecticut, Ricker-Gilbert earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology with Pennsylvania teaching certification in health and physical education from Penn State University in 2009. In 2011, he earned his Masters of Public Administration degree with a Graduate Certificate in Sport Management and Athletics from West Chester.
What They’re Saying
“When Alex was at IPFW, I saw first-hand his leadership potential and knew he was going to accomplish great things in college athletics. What a great hire for the Dolphins!" – Tommy Bell, Athletic Director, Southern Illinois University
"Alex is an extremely bright and talented administrator. He works hard to provide the best experience for student-athletes while remaining mindful of the ideals and values of the institution. I believe he is one of the best young professionals the country." – Troy Austin, Athletic Director, Longwood University
“Alex has the unique ability to connect with people very quickly. I worked with him for just a short time at IPFW but it didn't take long to respect how hard-working, caring, and knowledgeable he is about this industry and more importantly, the people in it. He deals with issues and people with the immense integrity.” – Kelley Hartley Hutton, Athletic Director, IPFW
"Alex Ricker-Gilbert is one of the brightest young professionals in NCAA Division I intercollegiate athletics. As Jacksonville’s next Director of Athletics, he will lead with integrity, tenacity, innovation, and excellence. A championship decision for JU.” – Michelle Meadows, Senior Associate AD/SWA at Longwood University
“Alex has been an active member of the National Association of Athletics Compliance serving on its Legislation and Governance Committee for the last three years. As a result, he genuinely understands the big picture of college sports. He has been deeply involved in evaluating the many changes that have directly impacted compliance professionals and college athletics over the last few years. Alex is a hard worker who is eager to be part of the process and always acts with integrity; I cannot think of someone better to serve in an athletics director role.” – Kate M. Charipar, Assistant Athletics Director for Compliance, University of Utah