Joel Nielsen will not officially become the new Director of Athletics at Kent State University for another month.
That isn’t stopping him from making an early imprint.
Nielsen, and Kent State University, announced the hire of former Arizona State associate Athletic director Thomas Kleinlein Wednesday. Kleinlein, 39, will be an Executive Associate Athletic Director.
The hire only enhances Nielsen’s commitment to reestablish a floundering football program that has not played in a bowl game since 1972.
Kleinlein’s 12-year career as an athletic administrator has been focused in and around football. He spent the last five seasons as the Associate Athletic Director for football at Arizona State, where he oversaw the strategic planning, budget, personnel, scheduling, team travel, facilities, student-athlete welfare and campus and alumni relations for the Sun Devils.
“Tom is one of the brightest young guys I’ve seen in terms of fundraising and how it relates to football. He has many of the same qualities as an NFL general manager, which is very rare to find,’’ University of Miami (Fla.) head coach Randy Shannon said in a press release. ``He’s implemented things at Arizona State that we use today at Miami.’’
Kleinlein held a similar position, the Assistant Athletic Director for Football Operations, at Rutgers from 2003-2005 and Wake Forest in 2002. A four-year letter winner at Wake Forest (1989-1992), Kleinlein rejoined his alma mater in 1998 as an academic counselor.
“I’ve known Tom since our days together at Wake Forest and I’ve followed the progression of his athletic administration career ever since,” Nielsen said in a press release. “He’s one of the bright, rising administrators in our business and I’m looking forward to introducing him and his family to the Kent State community. Tom’s experiences at Wake Forest, Rutgers and Arizona State will positively impact not just our football program, but our entire department.”
Kleinlein is expected to have a hand in all aspects of the athletic department at Kent State University, but he will focus on the football program, including fundraising, marketing and ticket sales. He will start May 26.