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Pepperdine University Appoints Tanner Gardner as Director of Athletics

Tanner Gardner

Pepperdine University has appointed Tanner Gardner to serve as the director of athletics of the Waves athletics program. Gardner most recently served at Rice University as the deputy athletic director for external affairs. He will assume his role on June 1, 2024.

“Tanner brings an impressive breadth of experience in visionary strategic athletic leadership at the collegiate level that will add renewed energy to our outstanding athletics program,” said Pepperdine president Jim Gash (JD ’93) in a message to the community. “Tanner’s track record of leveraging strategic partnerships to enhance the athletic experience for our student-athletes and supporters will help Pepperdine share with the world what it looks like to compete with purpose.”

At Rice, Gardner and his team were responsible for a transactional revenue growth of more than 85 percent, including record-high season ticket sales across all sports and sponsorship revenue. Gardner and his team also oversaw the 2016 brand refresh of Rice Athletics, including a partnership with Adidas, which led to unprecedented licensing revenue. He also played a pivotal role in the development of Rice Athletics’ strategic roadmap, “Vision for Victory,” in 2018. His leadership directly contributed to securing an invitation to the American Athletic Conference in 2021.

“I am thrilled to serve as the director of athletics at Pepperdine University and am grateful to President Gash, Tim Perrin, and the search committee for the confidence they have demonstrated in me and for the opportunity to join such a special community,” Gardner says. “It is a great honor and privilege to lead athletics at an institution that expects excellence and has a track record of success at the highest levels, all while being grounded in Christian values. My family and I look forward to partnering with our student-athletes, coaches, staff, and the entire community.”

A distinguished scholar-athlete at Stanford University and member of the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame, Gardner holds the school record for being the first three-time All-American in wrestling and is a two-time Academic All-American and a Pac-10 medal winner. He received a bachelor of arts in public policy and a master of arts in sociology from Stanford and went on to receive his MBA from Harvard Business School. Prior to his professional career at Rice Athletics, Gardner worked as a consultant at Boston Consulting Group, a corporate strategy summer analyst at Nike, an assistant wrestling coach at Harvard, and a senior staff project manager for Stanford Athletics.

Gardner succeeds Steve Potts (JD ’82), who is retiring after 14 years as the University’s director of athletics. Under Potts’ leadership, the Pepperdine Waves won 61 conference regular-season or tournament titles and recently captured the 2021 NCAA men’s golf national championship.