David Harris has been named director of intercollegiate athletics at the University of Northern Iowa, school officials announced Wednesday afternoon (Feb. 24, 2016).

Currently, Harris is senior associate athletic director at Iowa State University. He will assume his new duties at UNI on March 28.

"This is the culmination of an 18-year journey for me, always hoping, always believing and always preparing for an opportunity like this," Harris said, during his introductory news conference held at the McLeod Center. "When this opportunity became available, it was clear from the very beginning that is was the right fit, not just for me, but for my family. We could not be more excited about this opportunity."

The selection of Harris ends a 45-day search to replace former UNI athletic director Troy Dannen, who resigned from his alma mater in December after accepting a similar job at Tulane University in New Orleans.

"I am ecstatic that David and his family are becoming part of the Panther family," said UNI President Bill Ruud. "He has a wealth of experience in athletic department operations at three different Division I universities. I know that his knowledge will not only benefit our student athletes and athletic department staff but the University of Northern Iowa as a whole.

"David brings strategic thinking, intellect, enthusiasm and passion to the table, which is exactly what we were looking for in our new athletic department leader."

David Harris / Courtesy: UNI Athletics

In his role at Iowa State, Harris serves as the sports administrator for football, men's basketball and wrestling. He also has oversight responsibilities for student-athlete development, compliance, athletic training, and strength and conditioning.

Harris is deeply immersed in NCAA committee work and volunteerism. He has participated in the Division 1A Athletic Directors Association – Fellows Program since 2011. He has also participated in the NACDA Mentoring Institute, NCAA Student-Athlete Leadership Conference, NCAA Leadership Institute for Ethnic Minority Males and NCAA CHAMPS/Life Skills Conference.

He earned the 2012 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Advancing One Community Award for his commitment to helping establish a multicultural community in Ames.

Harris is the first African-American hired as an athletic director at UNI.

"It's significant," Harris responded, when asked about being one of only a few athletic administrators of color in the United States. "I know there aren't many people who look like me who get to do jobs like this. I accept that awesome responsibility of representing that. I take it very personally.

"In my job, my biggest concern is doing the job well. They (UNI admininistrators) hired someone to be the athletics director and do the job. I'm going to do that to the best of my ability. Whether I'm African-American, White, Hispanic or Asian, the expectation would be the same."

Prior to Iowa State, Harris worked in the athletics department at the University of Wisconsin as the associate athletic director – student services from 2002 until 2006. His primary responsibility focused on academics and academic services for more than 800 student athletes.

Harris also worked at his alma mater, the University of Mississippi, where two promotions lifted him to the senior staff in 2002. He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Ole Miss in 1993 and an MBA in 1995.

"I am honored to have the opportunity to serve the University of Northern Iowa as the director of athletics," Harris said. "UNI is truly a special place, and my family and I are extremely excited about becoming part of the Panther family.

"I am very thankful to President Ruud for giving me this opportunity to lead the athletics department. We will work together to strive for excellence in all of our endeavors in the classroom, in competition and in the way we serve and represent the Cedar Valley community."

Harris was one of three finalists known to interview for the job last week. Terms of his contract were not yet available, but UNI Ruud indicated the deal is comparable to what other member schools in the Missouri Valley Conference are paying.

Harris and his wife, Felicia, have a daughter, Kaitlyn (14), and a son, Wesley (5).