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Carl Sandburg College Hires Daniella Irle as Athletic Director

Daniella Irle has been named the new athletic director at Carl Sandburg College, making her the first woman in the College’s history to hold that position.

Irle’s hiring was approved by the Sandburg Board of Trustees at its meeting last week, and she’ll officially begin her new position Sept. 1. Irle is the sixth AD in Sandburg history and replaces Jerry Thor, who resigned July 31.

“I’m grateful to President Dr. Seamus Reilly and Senior Vice President of Student Services Steve Norton for entrusting me with the continued development and success of this department,” Irle said. “Sandburg has a great history in the NJCAA when it comes to building winning programs and developing quality student-athletes, and I’m thrilled that I get to be part of that history moving forward.”

Irle comes to Sandburg after serving as director of athletics at Knox College for four years before retiring in July. She stepped down from that role to spend more time with her three children, but when the opportunity to work at Sandburg presented itself, she jumped at the occasion.

“When I retired from Knox this summer, my intentions were to be finished working full-time in athletics and to focus my attention on being with my family,” Irle said. “When the possibility of working here at Sandburg came about, it struck me as a unique and unexpected opportunity to continue doing what I love — working with like-minded student-athletes and coaches — while staying in a place that my family loves and maintaining a positive work-life balance. Right away, it seemed like a perfect fit.”

While at Knox, Irle was instrumental in creating a social media strategy for the Prairie Fire, oversaw the development of a redesigned website and implemented plans to expand the institution’s booster club. She also emphasized the importance of mental health for student-athletes as well as diversity, equity and inclusion within athletics by providing programming on such topics. She also served on the NCAA Football Regional Advisory Committee; the National Association of Division III Athletic Administrator Awards Committee; the Midwest Conference’s Competition Committee, Athletics Council and Joint Council; the MWC’s Transgender Policy Review Committee; and was chair of the MWC’s COVID-19 Policy Action Group.

Prior to her time at Knox, Irle — a graduate of the NCAA Women Leaders in College Sports Executive Institute — spent 10 years at the University of North Dakota as the senior woman administrator, and she was also deputy director of athletics for her final five years there. Irle was a key figure in the program’s transition to NCAA Division I and movement of its conference affiliations. While at UND, the Fighting Hawks won more than 20 regular season or conference titles.

Before going to North Dakota, Irle was the assistant athletic director for business and student service operations at Tulane University from 2006-08, which included support in reinstating sports that had been suspended due to Hurricane Katrina.

Irle spent 14 years as a highly successful Division I swimming and diving head coach before moving to her career as an administrator. Her teams at Tulane and Fresno State University racked up a 123-43 record in dual meets, helping her be named Western Athletic Conference Women’s Coach of the Year in 1993 and 1995 as well as Conference USA Women’s Coach of the Year in 2005 and 2006.

Irle graduated from Lamar University in 1987 with her bachelor’s in physical education, and she earned a master’s in public education from the University of New Orleans in 2012. Irle and her wife, Kristen, live in Galesburg with their three children.

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