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Phil Esten
Phil  Esten

Deputy Director of Athletics and Chief Operating Officer


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Phil Esten is entering his second year as the Deputy Director of Athletics and Chief Operating Officer for Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics.

Dr. Esten works closely with Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour on the day-to-day operations of Penn State’s broad-based and highly successful 31-sport athletic program. Esten supervises all of the department’s external units and functions, as well as several internal operations with significant customer relations impact.

Esten oversees the leadership of Penn State Athletics’ development, marketing, strategic communications, and facilities and event management, and is the sport administrator for the football, baseball and men’s and women’s gymnastics programs. Development of revenue generation initiatives, fan experience, strategic partnerships, multi-media rights and branding also are among his key areas of oversight. Additionally, Esten has a leadership role with ICA’s strategic planning and execution as well as the department’s comprehensive facility master plan.

Esten came to Penn State in October, 2014 after serving two years as Deputy Director of Athletics for External Relations at the University of California. At Cal, he was responsible for the Cal Athletics brand and served as the Chief Development Officer, charged with generating key financial resources to support Cal’s 30-sport program and its mission.

Prior to his tenure at Cal, Esten served as the President and CEO of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association. Esten previously was an Associate Athletic Director at Minnesota for six years, managing the overall strategic plan for the Golden Gophers’ 25-sport program. He also served as the department’s point person for the University’s new on-campus football stadium, TCF Bank Stadium, which opened in 2009. Esten was instrumental in the stadium fundraising, an effort that included $90 million in individual and corporate support for the stadium, as well as more than $45 million for academic programs and other University initiatives.

Esten also served as the Assistant Director of Athletic Ticketing and Events at Ohio State, where he worked from 1997-2000.

A native of LaCrosse, Wis., Esten earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of St. Thomas (Minn.), where he was a baseball student-athlete. Esten earned a master’s in sport management at Ohio State and his doctorate in kinesiology from Minnesota, teaching graduate level courses in the kinesiology department as an adjunct professor.

Esten and his wife, Dani, have three children: Lucas, Cooper and Hannah.

September 27, 2015


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