With more than 20 years of experience at the Division I level, Dr. Phil Esten returned to his alma mater in January of 2019 to lead the St. Thomas Athletic Department as Vice President, Director of Athletics.
Esten continues to build upon the balanced and accomplished St. Thomas athletics program that has been a perennial top-20 finisher in the NCAA Division III Directors Cup scoring. Since beginning in January of 2019, he has begun to lay the path for the future of Tommie Athletics, hiring three new staff members and restructuring the St. Thomas Athletic Department leadership into four key strategic business verticals: Administration, Internal Operations, Student-Athlete Welfare and Development, and External Relations.
Known for his expertise in the external realm of intercollegiate athletics (ICA), Esten has built a reputation for leadership and collaboration. His expertise includes strategic planning development and execution, fund raising, revenue generation and facility planning and construction among other attributes.
Esten came to St. Thomas after serving as Deputy Athletic Director and Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Penn State University from 2014-2018, where he oversaw day-to-day operations for the Nittany Lions’ 31 athletic programs. Esten was responsible for the athletic department’s development, marketing, strategic communications, facilities and event management efforts. He also was a sport administrator for the football, baseball and men’s and women’s gymnastics programs.
Before arriving at Penn State, Esten served two years as the Deputy Director of Athletics for External Relations at the University of California-Berkeley.
He also brings experience from the University of Minnesota, where he served as an Associate Athletic Director and the point person for the planning and construction of TCF Bank Stadium, as well as The Ohio State University. Esten received his master’s from Ohio State before moving on to earn a PhD in Kinesiology from Minnesota.
A native of La Crosse, Wis., Esten is a former student-athlete himself, having played baseball at the University of St. Thomas while earning his undergraduate degree in the spring of 1995.