(Ottawa, Kansas) – After 18 years at the helm of Ottawa University’s Athletic Department, Arabie Conner, who was the University’s first female athletic director (AD), is stepping down from the role, effective September 8, 2023.
“It is with a deep sense of gratitude mixed with a lot of emotions that I announce the close of my tenure with Ottawa University,” said Conner. “This 27-year journey has afforded me the best years of my career, with the opportunity to collaborate with incredibly dedicated coaches, administrators, faculty, and athletes to grow OU and the OU athletic department into what it is today. I’m thankful for our incredibly loyal and dedicated coaches and staff and to those who have supported me every step along the way. I’m proud of what we’ve built and looking forward to the next chapter.”
Conner’s athletic leadership at Ottawa University began in 1996, when she was hired as head women’s basketball coach. She went on to become the all-time winningest coach in Braves history with 162 victories over 11 years. During that time, she earned the Kansas Basketball Coaches Associations (KBCA) Women’s College Basketball Coach of the Year award twice (2003-04; 2006-07). In 2004, 2006 and 2007, Conner led the Braves to the KCAC Basketball Tournament Championship and to the NAIA Division II National Tournament. She also helped OU to its first ‘Sweet 16’ appearance at the NAIA National Tournament in 2007.
When Conner transitioned to Director of Athletics in the fall of 2005, she remained the head women’s basketball coach for two additional years until devoting her full attention to the role of AD in fall 2007, where she carried on her tradition of outstanding performance. Throughout her tenure, Conner amassed more honors than any other AD in OU history:
- 33 Varsity Athletic Teams; plus, 18 Developmental/Reserve Teams
- 17 New Athletic Teams Added
- Women’s Teams - Golf, Tennis, Wrestling, Lacrosse, Bowling, Beach Volleyball, Powerlifting, Flag Football, STUNT
- Men’s Teams – Wrestling, Lacrosse, Volleyball, Bowling, Powerlifting
- Co-Ed Teams - Competitive Cheer, Competitive Dance, Esports
- 3 Athletic Teams Re-introduced
- Men’s Indoor Track & Field
- Women’s Indoor Track & Field
- Men’s Tennis
- Student athletes increased from 278 to more than 900
- 6 National Championships including women’s flag football—2021, 2022, 2023, esports (Call of Duty)—2021, competitive dance (NDA)—2014, 2022
- 36 Teams have earned Regular Season KCAC Championships
- 56 NAIA National Tournament Appearances
- 23 Teams have earned KCAC Tournament Championships
- 160 NAIA All-Americans
- 146 NAIA Scholar Teams
- More than 502 Daktronics NAIA Scholar Athletes
- 385 KCAC Players of the Week
- 1,416 All-KCAC Selections
- 12 Times named a Five-Star Champions of Character Institution
- 41 Coaches named KCAC Coach of the Year
- 3 Regional Coaches of the Year.
- 3 Coaches named Kansas Basketball Coaches Association (KBCA) College Coach of the Year
- Assisted with the facility design and campaigns for a number of athletic facility additions and renovations, including but not limited to:
- New turf fields for baseball, softball, and a multi-purpose field
- The Braves Athletic Performance Center - a 9,000-square-foot weight room
- New Press Box at AdventHealth Field at Ottawa University
- Campus tennis courts
- New turf design and track upgrades
- Renovations to Wilson Field House
- Assisted with introduction of the University’s graduate assistant program
While at Ottawa University, Conner was also a leader within the KCAC and NAIA, serving on a variety of committees that facilitate change in the collegiate athletics landscape. She served as the KCAC representative on the Board of Directors for the NAIA Athletic Directors Association, on the KCAC governing council executive committee (including Chair), KCAC Sport Expansion Committee, KCAC Game Fees Committee, member of the KCAC Covid-19 Task Force, on the NAIA/NAC National Rating Oversight Committee for Football, Women’s Lacrosse and Women’s Basketball (NAIA Division II), and currently on the NAIA National Drug Education and Testing Committee, among others.
Conner’s impressive record has earned her a number of accolades throughout the years. She was named KCAC Athletic Director of the Year four times (2010-11; 2015-16; 2017-18; 2021-22). In 2016-17, she was also named the Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year as the first KCAC recipient in the award’s 19 years of being presented. Ottawa University recognized Conner’s contributions when she was inducted into OU’s Braves Athletic Hall of Fame (BAHOF) in 2013.
“Arabie has been transformational for Braves athletics,” said Chancellor Bill Tsutsui. “She has led the University’s athletic department through the expansion to 33 varsity programs during her tenure, has been instrumental in the department’s robust organizational structure, and has mentored generations of students and coaches. Arabie’s impact on Braves Nation is one that will be remembered for years to come. Please join me in thanking Arabie for her dedication and many successes while at OU and in wishing her continued success in all that her future holds.”
In addition to being OU’s AD, Conner served as an associate professor in the OU physical education department and taught in the liberal arts studies program. She earned a master’s degree in sports administration and sport psychology from the University of Kansas and her undergraduate degree with a double major in health/exercise science and English from William Jewell College, where she was a four-year letter winner on the basketball court for the Cardinals. Conner earned HAAC Player of the Year in 1991, was fourth all-time in career scoring (1,893), was named William Jewell Athlete of the Year twice, and was inducted into William Jewell’s Hall-of-Fame in 2004.
An Interim AD will be announced soon. Ottawa University will be launching a national search for a new athletic director. Conner will remain a part of Braves Nation as she pursues her Doctor of Business Administration degree with Ottawa University.