|Previous College:||United States Air Force Academy '83|
|Position:||Director of Athletics & Recreation|
At a news conference on Thursday, February 28, 2013 in Bender Arena, then-American University President Neil Kerwin announced the appointment of Dr. William (Billy) Walker, deputy director of athletics at the United States Air Force Academy, as the university’s 14th director of athletics and recreation. Walker joined the AU staff on April 19, 2013.
“Billy Walker’s experiences, character, and values are perfectly suited to build upon AU’s record of success in athletic competition and in the classroom. We were impressed by his demonstrated leadership as an administrator and his achievements as a professor, department chair, and mentor of student-athletes,” said Kerwin. “We were especially struck by his belief that elite athletes can also be elite scholars—a value we embrace at this university.”
"I'm tremendously honored to be selected as American University's next director of athletics and recreation. President Kerwin's confidence in me is truly humbling, and I can't overstate how appreciative I am. Everywhere I've been on campus, I've met people who are part of an integrated team of professionals. I'm thrilled to be joining that team and I can't wait to get to work," said Walker.
Since that time, Walker’s success in athletics has led new AU President Sylvia Burwell to extend his influence to the campus as a whole. In Fall 2018, he was added to the President’s Cabinet, a group of senior administrators who serve as the university’s officers and who report directly to the president.
"American University is so fortunate to have the leadership of Dr. Billy Walker," said Burwell. "For half a decade, Billy has led our student-athletes with a steadfast commitment to making sure they exceed in their sports and in their studies. His dedication to our AU Eagles, and his long record of national service, is an example to all of us, and I am thankful to have him officially as a member of the President's Cabinet."
Under Walker’s direction, the department wrote and implemented a strategic plan, increased giving significantly, and made numerous facility upgrades. He helps nurture a climate for AU student-athletes to reach their full potential in and out of the classroom. AU student-athletes have earned at least a 3.34 department-wide grade point average each semester under Walker's watch, and have won 10 Patriot League postseason championships.
Walker’s first years at the helm of American’s Department of Athletics and Recreation produced outstanding results.
Within his first few weeks on the job, he faced the daunting task of hiring both a head men’s and head women’s basketball coach. The results were phenomenal. In that first season, Coach Mike Brennan and Coach Megan Gebbia each won 20-plus games and were both selected as finalists for national rookie coach of the year awards.
Brennan earned Patriot League Coach of the Year his first season after leading his Eagles squad to a Patriot League Championship and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament in Milwaukee against the University of Wisconsin.
Gebbia earned Patriot League Coach of the Year in her second season after guiding the Eagles to their first Patriot League championship and first trip to the NCAA tournament in school history, meeting the Iowa Hawkeyes in Iowa City. Coach Gebbia earned Patriot League Coach of the Year Honors again in 2018 after capturing the Patriot League title and taking on 7th-ranked UCLA at storied Pauley Pavilion and losing a hard-fought game by 11 points.
The success spanned across the board as American University teams have had an impressive .550 overall winning percentage in his time as AD, and achieved an astounding .593 winning percentage within the Patriot League. This includes 147 All-Patriot League selections, 109 Academic All-Patriot League selections, eight All-Americans, an NCAA Sportsmanship Award winner, a PL sportsmanship award winners for both men and women, two Patriot League NCAA Woman of the Year nominees, and the Division I-AAA Female National Player of the Year Award.
Additionally, 10 teams have won Patriot League Tournament championships and 12 regular-season championships. Eagles coaches have earned nine Patriot League or national coaching awards, and Eagles student-athletes have won 41 Patriot League player of the year/MVP awards. AU Volleyball advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2015 by beating the University of Kentucky in straight sets and made it to the Sweet Sixteen in 2013 by upsetting the University of Georgia and Duke University in straight sets.
Academically, AU student-athletes have earned above a 3.34 GPA as a department every semester since Walker’s arrival, achieving a 3.47 in the Spring of 2017 — the highest single-semester department GPA in recorded history.
Numerous teams have been recognized nationally for their team cumulative GPA, with the field hockey team earning the distinction of highest team GPA in the country twice, and the wrestling team earning the third-highest and fourth-highest GPA in the nation.
Nineteen Eagle student-athletes have been named Academic All-Americans or All-District on Walker’s watch and one was named National Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Eighteen Eagles have earned Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors, while two were named the overall Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Two Eagle student-athletes were named Fulbright Scholars, while two others earned the President’s Award, one was the Patriot League nominee for NCAA Woman of the Year and yet another earned a NCAA postgraduate scholarship.
Walker also challenged AU student-athletes to increase their presence in the D.C.-Metro community. They responded with numerous community service initiatives and partnerships with District of Columbia public grade schools, and DC Special Olympics.
Walker has also overseen record increases in giving, and more than doubled our exposure on national TV. He focused on making the AU Eagles brand more recognizable nationally by holding booster events across the country, hosting over 272 events, and reaching over 12,000 attendees. Under Walker’s guidance, AU Athletics published the first-ever department strategic plan, implemented the “Eagles Energy” program for student-athletes, and introduced a distinctive new website highlighting innovative new branding.
Facilities improvement has been an area where Walker and his team have made great progress. It started with the oversight of a complete renovation of all locker rooms, giving each team their own unique, private space. A complete renovation of Jacobs Field with new turf, video scoreboard, press box and softball field. The mezzanine level and concession area were remodeled in Bender Arena. The intercollegiate weight room was completely overhauled, improving student-athletes’ strength training tremendously, while the wrestling room was also upgraded. Walker also spearheaded the construction of the Bender Arena Sky Box, providing ticket holders with a first-class, luxury box from which to watch an event.
Prior to AU at the Air Force Academy, Walker served as deputy director of athletics and professor and head of the Physical Education Department. He was responsible for day-to-day operations of the Academy's athletic department, including 190 employees, 23 NCAA Division I Olympic sports, and a multifaceted program involving physical education, cadet fitness testing and evaluation, and an intramural program for more than 4,000 cadets.
In his various appointments at the United States Air Force Academy, he also served as a physical education instructor, assistant wrestling coach, and director of the Fitness Testing and Evaluation Division. In 1993, he earned the Academy's highest instructional award. In 2001, Walker was appointed by President Bush as the first Permanent Professor of Athletics and Physical Education. In addition to his duties at the Academy, Walker was the Director of the Air Force Combatives Center of Excellence, responsible for developing and implementing hand-to-hand combat training to thousands of airmen deployed around the world.
In late July of 2013, Walker was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General during his retirement ceremony from the United States Air Force. The ceremony, which was held in Clune Arena on the campus of the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., was officiated by General William T. Shelton, Commander, Air Force Space Command. General Walker was awarded the Legion of Merit during the formal proceedings.
A recognized expert in intercollegiate athletic issues, Walker recently served his second term as chair of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee and was a member of the NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Committee from 2011-13. He was asked to testify as an expert panelist for the U.S. Department of Education Secretary's Commission on Opportunity in Athletics and was a key participant in the merger between two lacrosse leagues. He also spearheaded the formation of the Western Wrestling Conference in 2005 and served as its commissioner from its inception until 2013.
A command pilot with nearly 3,000 hours of helicopter flight time, General Walker’s professional responsibilities have included deputy command of the 89th Operations Group, an organization of 800 people responsible for directing the safe transport of the President of the United States, Vice President, Cabinet Secretaries, members of Congress, foreign heads of state, and other dignitaries around the world. Originally from Hartland, Wisc., Walker graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1983 with a bachelor of science in history. As a varsity wrestler at Air Force, he was a three-year letter winner under legendary coach Wayne Baughman and served as team captain his senior year. He earned a master of arts from California State University and his doctorate in physical education and sports administration at the University of Northern Colorado.
Additionally, he was Commander of the 1st Helicopter Squadron, Andrews Air Force Base, the largest helicopter squadron in the Air Force, and Commander of the 37th Rescue Flight, FE Warren AFB, WY where his unit earned the distinction of “Best Helicopter Operations” in Air Force Space Command and garnered 25 “Saves” and 25 “Assists” while flying 82 rescue missions. He also has experience as a military assistant to the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
Walker was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Colorado Chapter, as an Outstanding American in 2016 and the Irish Educators 100 at the Irish Consulate in New York City in 2018.
Walker is married to the former Caroline Cyr of Daleville, Ala., and they have one daughter, Kaela, who is a 2015 graduate of Northwestern University.