Sports / The Prairie Fire / November 6, 2019

Athletic department improving under Irle’s watch

Daniella Irle never planned to be an Athletic Director,The only thing Irle was concerned about was doing her job to the best of her ability.

On January 9, 2018, Irle was hired to help change the fortunes of Knox College athletics.

In her short tenure at Knox, Irle has made some serious changes in the department. From the branding in the athletic facilities to coaching, Irle is leaving her mark on the athletic program.

Pat Barry was hired to be the new volleyball coach. He was one of the many hires that Irle made to the Athletic Department to change the fortune of recent years. She has a plan for the athletic department, and that’s a part of why Barry loves the job.

“That defiant leadership is really easy to get behind and get on board with. That’s why I love this position as much as I do because I know where I’m going, I know what the future looks like,” Barry said.

Some player-coaches adhere to player’s needs and look out for them but also are hard on them when they need to be. Irle is the equivalent of that, she’s an athlete’s Athletic Director.

“She’s a no-nonsense leader. Don’t get me wrong she’ll laugh and have a good time with you, but when it comes down to business, she’s that, she’s business. She wants to make sure we’re getting things done and doing things the right way, not just doing them to do them. She wants to turn Knox around and make the sports programs something that Knox is known for,” Barry said.

If you talk with Irle for a couple of minutes, you can tell how great her competitive spirit is. She wants to make Knox’s program the best that it can be. A program does not change overnight, It’s a step-by-step process that takes years in the making. That progression mirrors Irle’s rise to being an AD.

Irle grew up in an era where women playing sports was not as widely accepted as it is today. Thanks to her parents, who had the foresight to see the value of playing sports, Irle was able to get involved in soccer, basketball and swimming. Her mom was an elementary school teacher and wanted Irle to get involved with athletics because of the lessons they could teach that classrooms couldn’t.

“So I think that’s where it just started with just kind of that core philosophy of learning team principles, how to work with a team, how to win and lose, how to be disappointed, and then how to be a good winner and, uh, and to be active. Um, and then, of course, like anything, you get the bug, right?” said Irle.

Irle swam competitively at Lamar University, which is a Division I program in Beaumont, Texas. She majored in Physical Education and had a teaching certificate in History before getting her master’s from the University of New Orleans.

Irle held coaching positions at LSU, University of Texas, Fresno State University, and Tulane University. During her stint at Tulane, she was twice named the Conference USA Coach of the Year.

Her position before Knox College was as the Assistant Athletic Director at the University of North Dakota. When she took on the role of assistant athletic director at North Dakota, she started to envision herself taking on the AD role.

“My goal was to do whatever job I’m doing to the best of my ability. And, um, I believe in whatever job you leave, you leave it better than when you arrived. But for me, I just kept taking these natural steps kind of up the ladder. And then I got high enough on the ladder that there was only one more step,” Irle said.

The importance of family time played a role in the former two-time coach of the year going from Division I to D III.

“And for me to be a parent and an athletic director, I needed to be, in a smaller town, where I can, you know, go watch my kids play soccer, volleyball, whatever, at 5:30 and then be back here for basketball at seven. Right?  I couldn’t be in a Houston or in Austin or in a Baton Rouge with LSU or New Orleans. I needed to be in a smaller town,” Irle said.

In addition to family priorities, Irle also wanted to have a personal connection with the student-athletes. She had a desire to get to know her student-athletes and coaches. There’s a purity to Division III that is endearing to her. The coaches and administration are not in it for the money, and student-athletes are not awarded full scholarships. Everyone involved has a love for the sport.

At this stage of her career, Knox was the perfect fit. After her initial interview, Irle was impressed with the facilities but felt that the branding could use some work. It was one of the first goals she set out to change upon her hire.

“If I didn’t know I was on Knox campus in this field house, there was not one thing that said Knox College on it other than the track and field scoreboard, nothing. I thought, you know, this needs to be our house, and if it’s going to be our house, we need to know we’re in our house. So branding the building was just a very tangible goal,” Irle said.

You can see the importance of branding inside Irle’s office. The walls are plastered with various Knox athletic logos. The changes in branding extended to the basketball gym and the weight room. The gym has the Prairie Fire logo on a mat with the purple and gold coloring along with a fox design

She made other operational changes to the way that the athletics department worked. The changes weren’t significant, but just minor ways to improve efficiency. Irle also wanted to get K Club kick-started, which has been a success. Former student-athlete, Jordan Anderson, made a documentary chronicling the career of Harley Knosher.

The most significant change came in the form of coaching. Irle had to hire four coaches for women’s volleyball, men’s basketball, track & field, and women’s soccer. The soccer change was made because the previous coach left, but the other three were meant to turn around the programs.

Evander Wells was hired as the Head Track & Field Coach, Ben Davis was hired as the head coach of men’s basketball, and Barry was hired as the head coach for women’s volleyball.

Volleyball is already reaping the benefits. This past season they won 11 games, which is five more than the previous season. The changes were made so that Knox could have more athletic success.

“Success is part of what we do. It’s why you’re, it’s why we’re athletes, right? We compete. And, um, you know, it’s very disheartening to see student-athletes that feel like they don’t even have a chance to compete,” Irle said.

Irle is happy with the coaches they have brought in to help the student-athletes achieve success. They’re all excellent teachers who know how to sell a program.

Irle is a competitive person in nature. She wants to reach the goals she sets for herself and her staff.

In her short tenure at Knox, Irle has made some serious changes in the department. From the branding in the athletic facilities to coaching, Irle is leaving her mark on the athletic program.

Pat Barry was hired to be the new volleyball coach. He was one of the many hires that Irle made to the Athletic Department to change the fortune of recent years. She has a plan for the athletic department, and that’s a part of why Barry loves the job.

“That defiant leadership is really easy to get behind and get on board with. That’s why I love this position as much as I do because I know where I’m going, I know what the future looks like,” Barry said.

Some player-coaches adhere to player’s needs and look out for them but also are hard on them when they need to be. Irle is the equivalent of that, she’s an athlete’s AD.

“She’s a no-nonsense leader. Don’t get me wrong she’ll laugh and have a good time with you, but when it comes down to business, she’s that, she’s business. She wants to make sure we’re getting things done and doing things the right way, not just doing them to do them. She wants to turn Knox around and make the sports programs something that Knox is known for,” Barry said.

If you talk with Irle for a couple of minutes, you can tell how great her competitive spirit is. She wants to make Knox’s program the best that it can be. A program does not change overnight, It’s a step-by-step process that takes years in the making. That progression mirrors Irle’s rise to being an AD.

Irle grew up in an era where women playing sports was not as widely accepted as it is today. Thanks to her parents, who had the foresight to see the value of playing sports, Irle was able to get involved in soccer, basketball and swimming. Her mom was an elementary school teacher and wanted Irle to get involved with athletics because of the lessons they could teach that classrooms couldn’t.

“So I think that’s where it just started with just kind of that core philosophy of learning team principles, how to work with a team, how to win and lose, how to be disappointed, and then how to be a good winner and, uh, and to be active. Um, and then, of course, like anything, you get the bug, right?” said Irle.

Irle swam competitively at Lamar University, which is a Division I program in Beaumont, Texas. She majored in Physical Education and had a teaching certificate in History before getting her master’s from the University of New Orleans. Irle held coaching positions at LSU, University of Texas, Fresno State University, and Tulane University. During her stint at Tulane, she was twice named the Conference USA Coach of the Year.

Her position before Knox College was as the Assistant Athletic Director at the University of North Dakota. When she took on the role of assistant athletic director at North Dakota, she started to envision herself taking on the AD role.

“My goal was to do whatever job I’m doing to the best of my ability. And, um, I believe in whatever job you leave, you leave it better than when you arrived. But for me, I just kept taking these natural steps kind of up the ladder. And then I got high enough on the ladder that there was only one more step,” Irle said.

The importance of family time played a role in the former two-time coach of the year going from Division I to D III.

“And for me to be a parent and an athletic director, I needed to be, in a smaller town, uh, where I can, you know, go watch my kids play soccer, volleyball, whatever, at five 30 and then be back here for basketball is seven. Right? Uh, I couldn’t be in a Houston or in Austin or in a Baton Rouge with LSU or New Orleans. Um, I needed to be in a smaller town,” Irle said.

In addition to family priorities, Irle also wanted to have a personal connection with the student-athletes. She had a desire to get to know her student-athletes and coaches. There’s a purity to Division III that is endearing to her. The coaches and administration are not in it for the money, and student-athletes are not awarded full scholarships. Everyone involved has a love for the sport.

At this stage of her career, Knox was the perfect fit. After her initial interview, Irle was impressed with the facilities but felt that the branding could use some work. It was one of the first goals she set out to change upon her hire.

“If I didn’t know I was on Knox campus in this field house, there was not one thing that said Knox College on it other than the track and field scoreboard, nothing. I thought, you know, this needs to be our house, and if it’s going to be our house, we need to know we’re in our house. So branding the building was just a very tangible goal,” Irle said.

You can see the importance of branding inside Irle’s office. The walls are plastered with various Knox athletic logos. The changes in branding extended to the basketball gym and the weight room. The gym has the Prairie Fire logo on a mat with the purple and gold coloring along with a fox design

She made other operational changes to the way that the athletics department worked. The changes weren’t significant, but just minor ways to improve efficiency. Irle also wanted to get K Club kick-started, which has been a success. Former student-athlete, Jordan Anderson, made a documentary chronicling the career of Harley Knosher.

The most significant change came in the form of coaching. Irle had to hire four coaches for women’s volleyball, men’s basketball, track & field, and women’s soccer. The soccer change was made because the previous coach left, but the other three were meant to turn around the programs.

Evander Wells was hired as the Head Track & Field Coach, Ben Davis was hired as the head coach of men’s basketball, and Barry was hired as the head coach for women’s volleyball.

Volleyball is already reaping the benefits. This past season they won 11 games, which is five more than the previous season. The changes were made so that Knox could have more athletic success.

“Success is part of what we do. It’s why you’re, it’s why we’re athletes, right? We compete. And, um, you know, it’s very disheartening to see student-athletes that feel like they don’t even have a chance to compete,” Irle said.

Irle is happy with the coaches they have brought in to help the student-athletes achieve success. They’re all excellent teachers who know how to sell a program.

Irle is a competitive person in nature. She wants to reach the goals she sets for herself and her staff.

Kyle Williams
Sports Editor

Tags:  Knox College knox college athletics Praire Fire Praire Fire Men's Basketball women's volleyball

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1 Comment

Nov 11, 2019

You don’t have to literally quote “um.”



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