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Murray State athletics director hired by Wichita State

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WKMS
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Liam Niemeyer

Murray State University athletics director Kevin Saal is moving back to his native Kansas, where he’ll serve as athletics director for the Wichita State University Shockers.

Wichita State president Rick Muma announced Saal’s hiring during a press conference Wednesday.

The 44-year-old will take over the job in mid-July.

Saal helped to lead the Racers through two conference realignments during his tenure in Murray since his hiring in March 2019.

"We extend our best wishes to Kevin, his wife Jennifer and their family. In the coming days, we will announce an interim athletic director and initiate a search process,” MSU president Bob Jackson said in a statement. “Murray State University has a storied, successful, nationally-recognized athletics history and brand. We continue to see significant momentum and an upward trajectory across numerous facets of our institution. This is an exciting time for Murray State University and Racer Athletics, particularly as we embark on our new relationship with the Missouri Valley Conference beginning this summer and the Missouri Valley Football Conference in July 2023."

Saal will be responsible for managing, planning and directing the operations of the university's intercollegiate athletics programs, as well as managing oversight of sponsorships, fundraising, partnerships, marketing, public relations, strategic planning, compliance, academics, student-athlete development and performance, Name Image and Likeness (NIL) and hiring and mentoring coaches.

"Kevin returns to his home state of Kansas with a strong, forward-thinking vision for our men's and women's intercollegiate athletics programs," Muma said in a statement. "Kevin is just the person to move WSU's athletics program forward and push it to even greater heights."

Saal replaces former Wichita State AD Darron Boatright, who was fired in May in part over the university’s lack of preparation to compete in the new market of name, image and likeness payments to athletes.

"My wife Jennifer and I are incredibly humbled and blessed to accept this special opportunity to represent Wichita State University, Wichita State Athletics and Shocker Nation,” Saal said. “With great enthusiasm, gratitude and appreciation, we are thankful to President Muma and the Search Advisory Group for their trust, confidence and support.”

Prior to his time at Murray State, Saal worked for 12 years at the University of Kentucky, where he served in various roles before becoming executive associate director of athletics. He was also an event coordinator and had administrative responsibilities for golf and rowing at Kansas State from 2000 to 2005, and director of operations at Missouri-Kansas City from 2005 to 2007.

A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
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