Dr. John Watson
Dr. John  Watson

Position:
Director of Athletics


Dr. John Watson served as Director of Athletics at Pepperdine University for 13 years, starting in 1988 until he stepped down in January 2011 to return to the classroom.

The University's intercollegiate athletics program enjoyed an unprecedented level of success and a high degree of national visibility since moving to Malibu in the early 1970's.

That trend continued after Watson was named to replace long-time Director of Athletics Wayne Wright in May of 1998. During Watson's time in the position, Pepperdine's athletics teams reached unprecedented heights.

The department was awarded the distinguished NCAA Division I-AAA All-Sports Trophy as the top NCAA Division I athletics program without football in both 2004-05 and 2005-06.

Additionally, Pepperdine was a three-time winner (2002, 2003 and 2004) of the Commissioner's Cup, an All-Sports Award administered by the West Coast Conference (WCC) and presented at the end of each academic year to the league's top-performing school in conference play.

During his tenure, Pepperdine's teams won more than 2,200 games, 52 conference tournaments and 21 league regular-season titles.

Under Watson's leadership, two programs claimed the ultimate prize when Marv Dunphy's men's volleyball team captured the sport's fifth national title in 2005 and Adam Steinberg's men's tennis team had a remarkable season in 2006 and capped off the year with a thrilling win over Georgia to claim the program's first-ever national championship.

"The tremendous accomplishments by our various athletics teams are a direct result of the hard work put forth on a daily basis by our coaches and student-athletes," Watson said. "Despite increasing financial pressures and higher academic demands, our athletics program remains a model of consistency and our teams continue to compete at the highest level with tremendous success."

Pepperdine has now won an NCAA Division I team championship in five sports-baseball (1992), men's golf (1997), men's tennis (2006), men's volleyball (1978, 1985, 1986, 1992, 2005) and water polo (1997). Only a handful of NCAA Division I schools have won national team championships in five or more sports.

"Wayne Wright set our athletics program on a clear direction for success," Watson said. "Wayne's vision has realized an amazing record of accomplishment in NCAA Division I athletics and the academic success of our athletes. I am proud that success has continued during my tenure as Director of Athletics. "It is my goal to strengthen the support systems which allow our coaches to recruit quality student-athletes, create an environment for success on the field of play and in the classroom plus utilize the joy of athletics competition for the enrichment of all Pepperdine students and the neighboring communities," Watson added.

Watson had 11 years of prior experience working with the University's athletics department, including increasing the number of women's sports, promoting the overall program and representing the University to the NCAA and WCC. Watson served as Pepperdine's Institutional Representative to the NCAA from 1984-92 and on the WCC's Executive Committee from 1987-92. In 1995, Watson was named the University's Faculty Representative.

Watson began his professional career at Pepperdine in 1973, and in 1980 was named acting dean of the University's School of Professional Studies. Watson later served as assistant vice president for Academic Affairs and then as vice president for Administrative Affairs. In the fall of 1984, Watson was named the University's vice president of Student Affairs, and continued to serve in that capacity through the summer of 1992, during which time he worked closely with the athletics department.

In 1992, Watson initiated the highly successful Semester in Washington D.C. program and was also named the Director of the University's acclaimed Teacher Education program.

An advocate of the total development of a student, Watson earned the University's highest honor for teaching excellence in 1996, the Harriet and Charles Luckman Distinguished Teaching Fellow award. Watson earned his bachelor's degree in political science from Pepperdine in 1972 and a master's degree in teaching from the University in 1975. Watson completed work for a doctorate degree in education from UCLA in 1984.

Watson resides in Malibu with his wife, Dee Dee. They have three children: Matt, Kristen and Brian.

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