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Johnson ’03 Named UMN Morris Intercollegiate Athletics Director

Matt Johnson speaking from a podium in the Cougar Sports Center
Will Rottler, director of athletic communications
Publication date: 
January 7, 2020

The University of Minnesota Morris has announced Matthew Johnson '03 as the new director of intercollegiate athletics. Johnson has been serving as interim director since August 2018 after holding coaching, assistant AD, and associate AD roles at UMN Morris.

Tracey Anderson, associate professor of biology and faculty athletic representative, chaired the national search. Anderson said, "The committee was impressed with the extremely high level of support for Matt we saw in this search process. His collaborative leadership style, commitment to the academic and athletic success of student athletes, and record of accomplishment in advancing our student athletes' experiences are very highly regarded on our campus and in our community. I'm excited for our future in Cougar Athletics."

"I am incredibly humbled and honored to be named director of intercollegiate athletics at the University of Minnesota Morris," Johnson said. "Serving in an interim role for the past year allowed me to fully immerse myself in the position, and I could not be more excited for all that is ahead for Cougar Athletics. I want to thank all the people and groups that were involved with this opportunity; including the search committee, the administration on campus, as well as the Cougar coaches and student-athletes."

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Sandra Olson-Loy praised Johnson's demonstrated ability to bring new ideas to fruition through creative partnerships. In his time as the interim director of athletics, Johnson secured Cougar Athletic's first exclusive gear and apparel deal, launched the rebranding of the Cougar Sports Center, increased participation and funding from the Cougar Alumni Golf Classic, and rebranded the Cougar Athletic Association to the Cougar Club. Under his leadership during the 2018-19 school year, 84 student-athletes were named academic all-conference—recording GPAs of 3.5 or higher, 61 student-athletes were named all-conference, and two Cougar teams won conference titles. 

Johnson has been active in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference, NCAA national conventions, and the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. Prior to being named interim director of athletics, Johnson served as an assistant and associate athletic director for seven years under athletic directors Mark Fohl and Jason Herbers, whom he credits as mentors. He has been the Sports Studies and Athletics academic discipline coordinator since 2012. Johnson held a variety of coaching roles with the Cougar football program for 15 seasons, including serving as offensive coordinator and co-head coach.

As a Cougar student-athlete, Johnson was a four-year starter (2000-03) and two-year captain (2002-03) for the football program, starting all 44 games he played on the offensive line. He was recognized in 2004 as the UMN Morris men's honor athlete.

Johnson earned his bachelor's degree in social science with a minor in history and coaching certification from the University of Minnesota Morris. He holds a master's in education from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a focus on educational administration.

Johnson and his wife Abbey (Starzecki), a former Cougar soccer student-athlete, have two children, Cooper (9) and Crosby (6). 

Johnson's love of sports is evident beyond the campus. He assigns and coordinates Morris area high school basketball officials, has refereed multiple Minnesota State High School League state basketball tournaments, and recently refereed his first high school basketball game at the Target Center.

Johnson also was elected to the Morris Area School Board in 2018. The UMN Morris AD collaborates with Morris Community Education to provide oversight for the Regional Fitness Center—a campus and community partnership.

About Cougar Athletics

Cougar Athletics offers a competitive NCAA Division III intercollegiate athletics experience advancing the UMN Morris commitment to academic excellence, diversity, service, and community. The program fosters the core values of integrity, respect, unity, commitment, and excellence and furthers UMN Morris students' success in athletics, learning, and life. Cougar Athletics sponsors 19 NCAA Division III sports, and one in five UMN Morris students is a student-athlete. Learn more at