Donald J. Oberhelman was named Cal Poly’s Director of Athletics on March 17, 2011.
Oberhelman came to Cal Poly after serving as the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Associate Athletic Director at San Diego State University. In that capacity, he was responsible for the daily operations of San Diego State’s intercollegiate athletics program.
“Cal Poly has a great tradition of academic excellence and we want to continue to build on that tradition in everything we do,” Oberhelman said at the time of his hiring. “For many people, athletics is the first impression they have of the university. We must make sure these impressions are great ones."
Oberhelman has served in a number of NCAA and conference leadership roles, including The NCAA Division I Council. The 40-member Council is charged with managing the new governance structure, the many changes taking place in college athletics, and the day-to-day decision making for all of Division I. In April 2015, he was appointed by the NCAA to chair the newly formed NCAA Division I Legislative Committee to review legislation and communicate positions to the Division I Council. Oberhelman has served on many working groups for the NCAA, currently serving in a review of the future of amateurism within the collegiate model. He is a current member of the Executive Committee for the Big West Conference.
Oberhelman also serves on the Board of Directors for the Hearst Cancer Center.
The Mustang Way, the core values for the department, was developed under Oberhelman's leadership. These values were so well received that the university adopted much of them as their own in 2012, and The Mustang Way has since become an integral part of campus life at Cal Poly.
Cal Poly has recently seen many NCAA Division I 'firsts.' After a 20-year history in Division I, with Oberhelman at the helm the Mustangs experienced the first NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament appearance, the first Women's NCAA Basketball Tournament appearance, a number one national ranking for baseball, first hosting of the NCAA Baseball Regionals, first Big Sky Conference football championship, and the best finish in the Big West Commissioner's Cup in our history with six championships in one season.
The Mustangs' most successful competitive Division I campaign may have been this past season, but Oberhelman believes championships are not enough.
“We know our primary obligation is to develop our student-athletes," said Oberhelman. "I want us to be leaders in graduation rates as well as in championships."
Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong echoed Oberhelman’s sentiments.
“Don’s goal is for all of our student-athletes to leave Cal Poly with a diploma and a championship ring,” Armstrong said. “That’s a great goal for our student-athletes and our fans.”
Mustang athletics continues to be a leader in graduation rates, graduating student-athletes at a higher rate than the campus as a whole, the ultimate measure of academic success. This past year the Mustangs received more NCAA Academic Achievement Awards than the rest of the Big West Conference combined, and half of all student-athletes maintain over a 3.0 GPA.
Facility improvements and renovations have been a priority under Oberhelman’s direction, with every venue, building, and stadium receiving upgrades. Private giving has gone up dramatically during his tenure, leading to these improvements as well as growth in financial aid and athletic support staff.
Prior to his tenure at San Diego State, Oberhelman served several roles at Southern Mississippi, the most recent as the senior associate athletic director (2002-07), education coordinator for athletics at Texas A&M (1998-2002) and as a compliance assistant at Florida State (1995-1998).
The native of rural Kansas earned his bachelor’s in business administration at Kansas State and his master’s in athletic administration at Florida State.
Don resides with his wife D.D. in Pismo Beach.