A man who was once interested in working his way through law school to become a lawyer instead decided to follow his passion and propelled himself onto the pinnacle of MSU Denver athletics.
Before he turned 40, Dr. Anthony Grant had reached his goal of becoming an intercollegiate athletic director; however, his journey to the top was different from what the average spectator might expect.
Even as a child, the Philadelphia native always knew that athletics was the right place for him.
“Athletics had always been there,” Grant explained. “I didn’t know that administration was necessarily an option. You always look at it from a standpoint of being either a player or a coach. My wife actually informed me about a sports management major at Temple University, so I decided to enroll in that, and it really opened my eyes to all the options I had in front of me and the profession. From that point on I said, ‘OK, if I’m going to do this I want to be the leader of it.”
Grant, who’s entering his third year as athletic director, holds a master’s degree from Temple in sports and recreation. He received his doctorate in health and sport studies with a specialization in athletic administration from the University of Iowa. He spent seven years as associate director of athletics at Millersville University in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, before taking the MSU Denver job in 2015.
Coming out of high school in Philadelphia, the former football and track star entered Penn State on an academic scholarship. He tried out for the track team, but the ground shrank beneath him and limited his career as an athlete.
“I will be straight up and say my stint as a collegiate student-athlete was very short,” Grant admitted.
Subtracting “athlete” still left Grant as a “student” in pursuit of his career goals. He thought about law school, but took his wife’s suggestion and stayed with sports and recreation.
Grant started his education pursuing a major in English and a Japanese minor. As an undergrad, the goal was to dive into law school and eventually indulge in a career as a lawyer.
“I did OK, but I didn’t do well enough to get into the law schools I really wanted to get into,” Grant said about his brief pre-law school experience. “There was a point in my life where I was trying to figure out what is my passion and what direction do I want to go?”
The challenges arise at MSU Denver every year with the university’s 16-sport intercollegiate athletic program. One of Grant’s essential goals this summer was hiring a new head coach for the men’s basketball program.
After looking over more than 120 applications and interviewing 17 candidates via Skype, Grant hired Michael Bahl as the new coach. Grant described what made Bahl a perfect fit for the Roadrunners culture.
“He is a Roadrunner through and through,” Grant said. “He was a former player here, he was on the coaching staff, and during the interview process, he just went up and took it. In addition to passion and pride for this institution and the basketball program, he’s also a competitor.”
Bahl has a tremendous amount of experience with MSU Denver and had been an assistant coach with the Roadrunners since 2010-11 under former head coach Derrick Clark.
A time for change was needed and Grant hopes that Bahl can bring some swagger back to the Roadrunners come November.
Jenny Glenn was the story of the fall in 2016, leading her Roadrunners volleyball squad to an undefeated RMAC season and a glorious run in the NCAA tournament. Glenn proved to be a true competitor as a first-year head coach and Grant is is confident that she can bring sustained success to the program for years to come.
“She game out of the gate just firing, going undefeated in the regular season,” he said. “In our reality you’re not going to see that too often, so she laid the gauntlet down. It’s now a matter of seeing what she does over the long haul.”
Glenn said she has enormous respect for Grant and was honored to be given the opportunity to work beside him.
“Dr. Grant has worked very hard to continue the success of the MSU Denver Athletic Department,” Glenn stated. “He is committed to solidifying our strategic plan and to hiring people who are passionate about the program’s core values. I look forward to seeing the growth of the athletic department under his leadership.”
John Kietzmann, the associate director of athletics for marketing, works alongside Grant every day and is humble and grateful to be working with him.
“Anthony has really worked to provide a clear vision for Roadrunners Athletics since his arrival. I have found that he is very thoughtful and deliberate when evaluating opportunities for the department. He is open and takes into account a variety of opinions as he is examining the options in front of him,” Kietzmann said.
Grant is keenly aware of the low number of African-American athletic directors throughout intercollegiate athletics.
A recent study by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (U.S. News & World Report Best States), found a large racial imbalance in college sports administration. According to the report, athletic directors were overwhelmingly white during the 2015-2016 academic year: 87.6 percent in Division I, 89.4 percent in Division II and 93.6 percent in Division III.
“It’s definitely not because there’s a lack of talent out there,” Grant said. “It’s really about opportunity. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity that I have. I’m also fortunate to have had a president in Dr. Jordan that values diversity and felt like I was the right person for the job.”
MSU Denver is counting on Grant’s energy, enthusiasm, talent and leadership to carry Roadrunners athletics to greater heights.
“It has been definitely a gratifying experience working with good people and student-athletes, and being able to impact their lives in a positive way,” Grant said. “Moving forward, it’s going to be continuing the adventure but also being able to really do some impactful things within the department.”
Author: Nathan Matoush
Nathan Matoush is a senior at MSU Denver majoring in Communication Arts and Sciences with an emphasis in broadcast. He also serves as the social media manager and sportscaster for Met Radio. Nathan is pursuing a career in sports journalism after graduation. You can contact him on Twitter at @Nathan_Matoush.