UNI names Megan Franklin as Director of Athletics

UNI names Megan Franklin as Director of Athletics

Longtime Missouri Valley athletics administrator joins the Panthers from Drake University

New UNI Director of Athletics Megan Franklin poses for a photo with UNI President Mark Nook

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook announced on Monday that Megan Franklin has agreed to serve as UNI’s Director of Athletics. The Lincoln, Nebraska native has served over a decade as Senior Associate Athletics Director – Strategic Initiatives and External Operations/Senior Woman Administrator at Drake University. She was selected for the role of Interim Athletics Director at Drake in 2017.    

Details regarding a formal media conference to introduce Franklin to campus and the Cedar Valley community will be announced when finalized. Franklin will begin her tenure at UNI on Monday, May 13. UNI fans and donors can also meet her on the Panther Caravan beginning Monday in Clear Lake, followed by events in Waterloo (Tuesday), Des Moines (Wednesday) and Cedar Rapids (Thursday). 

Nook indicated that Franklin has agreed to terms of a five-year contract that is subject to approval by the Iowa Board of Regents. Owning over two decades of experience as an NCAA Division I Athletics administrator, Franklin worked at FBS programs such as Virginia Tech and Nebraska prior to her arrival at Drake in 2012. 

In her role at Drake, she worked with community leaders and Catch Des Moines on plans to host NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament contests in 2019 and 2023. A key community partner in metropolitan Des Moines, Franklin played an integral role in the initial concepts of an on-campus soccer stadium. Mediacom Stadium forged a unique partnership between a corporate partner, Drake and Des Moines Public Schools. In addition to serving as the home field for Drake’s soccer programs, the facility has hosted a myriad of competitions and events for middle and high-school students in the Des Moines district after opening in 2023. 

“We are extremely pleased to welcome Megan to the University of Northern Iowa,” Nook said. “Megan has been a key contributor to the renaissance of Drake Athletics in recent years. Her understanding of the NCAA Division I landscape and the Missouri Valley Conference will be immediately beneficial to Panther Athletics. Her longstanding commitment to student-athlete success stood out among a field of very strong candidates. 

“Megan’s vision of how UNI Athletics can compete for championships, while bolstering the profile of our entire university impressed me and the rest of our search committee,” Nook continued. “We are excited for our entire campus community to meet her, as well as our passionate Panther fans and alumni.” 

“I appreciate President Nook and Panthers everywhere for entrusting me with the responsibility of serving as UNI’s Director of Athletics,” Franklin said. “UNI’s rich tradition of success in the athletics arena, in the classroom and as a key community partner were appealing for me. The signature of Panther Athletics is the people from the winningest coaching cohort in the Missouri Valley Conference to administrative professional staff who have dedicated their professions to the betterment of UNI student-athletes. As I visited campus and engaged with President Nook, his leadership team and coaches and staff, it simply confirmed many of the reasons that I have admired UNI from afar for many years. I am excited to get to Cedar Falls to build on the legacies in the Athletics Director chair of the individuals before me. Go Panthers!” 

A familiar face in the Missouri Valley Conference, Franklin was charged with handling sport administrator duties for 15 sports at Drake, including the habitually successful women’s basketball program that claimed five conference titles and made five NCAA Tournament appearances during her tenure. She also hired current Drake head football coach Todd Stepsis, who was the 2023 Pioneer Football League and AFCA FCS Regional Coach of the Year.

Franklin’s other notable head coaching hires at Drake have included volleyball head coach Darrin McBroom who inherited a program that had posted six consecutive losing seasons and has since transformed the Bulldogs into a squad that has finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference two of the past three years. Franklin hired Pat Flinn to guide the Drake men’s soccer program in 2022. Flinn and his assistants earned Missouri Valley Conference Staff of the Year honors after elevating the Bulldogs to a second-place conference finish after being tabbed last in the preseason poll. She also hired women’s golf head coach Steve Smith, who in 2022 guided the Bulldogs to their highest finish in the MVC tournament in over a decade. 

Under her supervision, the Drake women’s tennis team won the MVC title in 2023 under head coach Breaunna Addison, who Franklin had hired the previous year. The men’s tennis program at Drake also claimed 2022 and 2023 Summit League titles and advanced to NCAA competition. Franklin also served as the sport supervisor for Drake’s rowing program during her tenure in Des Moines. 

Franklin arrived at Drake following a nine-year stint working in the Virginia Tech Athletics Department. During her time with the Hokies she played an integral role in coordinating recovery and support efforts following the horrific shooting that claimed 32 lives on the Blacksburg campus in April 2007. She also worked as the Director of Student Life within the Athletics department to further the personal and academic development of all Virginia Tech student-athletes. She began her professional career serving as an academic counselor in Athletics at the University of Nebraska. 

Franklin earned her bachelor’s degree in Community Health Education at the University of Nebraska and later received a master’s degree in Educational Administration specializing in student affairs from Nebraska. She owns a PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Virginia Tech. 

Read the full transcript from the introductory pep rally

Read more about the introductory pep rally

Read what they're saying about Megan Franklin