The University of Louisville turned to a familiar face to take the helm of the Cardinals’ athletic programs. Interim President Lori Stewart Gonzalez announced that Josh Heird, who has served as interim AD for almost six months, was hired today as vice president for intercollegiate athletics and athletic director.
The UofL Athletic Association endorsed the hiring at its meeting Friday morning. The appointment is immediate, although contract terms have not been finalized.
“Josh is our athletics director because he represents who we are today—and who we aspire to be,” Gonzalez said. “He has a vision of the limitlessness of U of L athletics. He has built relationships with student-athletes, coaches, staff, donors, alumni and fans. He has demonstrated time and again that not only is he ready to lead our program—he is ready to elevate it.”
“Today is a great day for the University of Louisville, with the official appointment of Josh Heird as permanent athletic director,” said Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear. “Josh has proven to be a strong leader who will not only champion the school, but also the incredible student athletes. I believe there are very bright days ahead for UofL athletics, and Josh will be a stable, guiding force through this exciting time.”
Heird, 41, was selected following a national search that drew a “strong” pool of candidates, including sitting athletic directors from “well-known, established” universities, Gonzalez said.
“It is impossible for me to put into words the emotion that accompanies this announcement,” Heird said. “The opportunity to lead one of the premier athletic departments in the country means the world to me. Between having an MBA from this institution and being fortunate enough to spend 13 years working for this university, I am extremely aware of the responsibility and expectations that come with this appointment. I will work tirelessly to provide our world-class coaches, staff, and student-athletes with the resources essential to achieve their academic and athletic dreams.
“The Louisville Cardinals are the common thread that connects this entire community – it has been and will continue to be my goal to make this university and this city proud of this program,” he added. “I am grateful to Dr. Lori Gonzalez and others who provided input in this importance decision. Lastly, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank my family and especially my wife Abbey, for their support through my entire career.”
In his six months serving as interim athletic director, Heird hired UofL’s popular new men’s basketball coach, Kenny Payne; established an NIL department within athletics; addressed educational payments for student-athletes beginning this fall; and worked with UofL staff to plan for an operating budget for the 2022-23 year that exceeds a record $114 million.
Heird has more than 13 years experience in athletics administration at UofL and at Villanova University.
He worked at UofL from 2007 to 2016, including four years as assistant athletic director for championships and facilities. In that role, he helped design and oversee construction of the Jim Patterson Baseball Stadium expansion, the Ulmer Softball Stadium expansion, the building of the Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Soccer Stadium, the lacrosse stadium press box, as well as the Thorntons Academic Center of Excellence. He also assisted with the day-to-day management of facility operations. Heird was responsible for management of all ACC and NCAA postseason events hosted by UofL, including the 2015 and 2012 men’s and women’s cross country national championships, the 2015 and 2012 men’s basketball second and third rounds, the 2014 women’s basketball regional, the 2012 women’s volleyball national championship and the 2012 field hockey national championship.
He then served as senior associate athletics director/chief athletics operating officer at Villanova in 2018-19 after operating nearly two years as associate athletic director for internal operations and finance. In those roles, he provided leadership for all internal units of the athletic department and had administrative oversight with finance and budget, capital projects, ticket and equipment operation, food service, camps and overall project and event management. He also was the sport administrator for the men’s lacrosse and men’s soccer programs, as well as the secondary administrator for men’s basketball. Villanova won the national championship in basketball in 2018.
He returned to UofL in 2019 as deputy athletic director, serving as the sport administrator for baseball, men’s basketball and football, as well as providing administrative oversight for championships, facilities/events, capital projects and equipment operations. He also provided sport oversight for men’s and women’s golf and men’s and women’s swimming and diving.
Before starting a career in collegiate athletics, Heird spent five years in Washington, D.C. working for U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho and U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard of Colorado.
Heird is a 2002 graduate of Mississippi College, where he was a member of the cross country, track and field and football teams. In addition to being the American Southwest Conference 800-meter champion in 2001, Heird was an all-conference cross country selection in 2001 and was an academic all-conference honoree every semester of his career. He earned an MBA from UofL in 2009.