Mike Holmes, a native Iowan with 20-plus years experience in coaching and six as a director of intercollegiate athletics, has been selected to lead the St. Ambrose University Athletics Department into the future.
Holmes will begin his duties July 1. He was selected following a nationwide search.
Holmes is the current athletic director at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, a private Catholic university with 17 athletics programs competing at the NCAA Division III level.
At St. Ambrose, he will lead an Athletics Department that has expanded to include 29 varsity programs that serve more than a third of the school's undergraduate student population. Most Fighting Bees teams compete in varsity sports sanctioned by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Holmes will replace Ray Shovlain, who has served as director of athletics since 1994. Shovlain will continue as men's head basketball coach, a position he has held since 1982. He also will continue teaching in the College of Business and will assume two additional titles, ambassador for the Leadership Academy and advancement athletics liaison.
"We are proud and grateful for the great work Ray Shovlain has done in overseeing the ongoing growth of our athletics teams, programs and facilities, and we believe Mike Holmes is a strong choice to continue taking our department forward," said Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, PhD, president of St. Ambrose.
"Mike brings a strong understanding of our faith-based traditions and our social justice mission, and shares our commitment to ensuring our student-athletes prioritize academics and are well-prepared to lead productive lives," Sister Joan added.
New Athletic Director
"As a former Iowa junior college basketball coach, I am honored for the opportunity to work with Coach Ray and a great group of coaches, student-athletes, faculty and administrators," Holmes said. "Athletics appears to be in a very solid place at St. Ambrose. The coaching staff has a great deal of experience, the rosters are robust, and the teams are experiencing a great deal of success."
A native of Des Moines, Holmes graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication from Simpson College in 1989 and a Master of Education degree in Sports Psychology from Iowa State University in 2000.
"As a former Iowa junior college basketball coach, I am honored for the opportunity to work with Coach Ray and a great group of coaches, student-athletes, faculty and administrators," Holmes said. "Athletics appears to be in a very solid place at St. Ambrose. The coaching staff has a great deal of experience, the rosters are robust, and the teams are experiencing a great deal of success.
"It is wonderful to have the opportunity to be a part of a program that is flourishing, has a foundation in faith, and additionally reaches out to student-athletes of a diverse nature who will have the opportunity to explore the wonderful aspects of being an athlete here."
As a father and husband, Holmes is pleased for the opportunity to return to his home state.
"College athletics has taken me to interesting places where I have met tremendous people," he said. "Iowa gets deep into your bones, however, and seems reluctant to loosen its grip. It is hard to describe the thrill I have that my children will be able to grow up in such a wonderful area.
"Sister Joan and Ray Shovlain have created a special product here with the obvious help of many dedicated coaches, athletes, and members of the campus community who have supported the vision. Job number one will be to make sure I do not break it. Within that construct, I hope that I can bring some ideas and experiences to help the program to continue its upward trajectory."
Holmes began his career in collegiate athletic administration in 2014, when he accepted the positions of athletic director and head basketball coach at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, a public university of approximately 1,400 students located near the northern tip of Maine, close to the border of the Province of New Brunswick, Canada.
He has been a full-time administrator since 2017 when he became athletic director at Franciscan University. Founded in 1946 by the first bishop of Steubenville, Franciscan University has much in common with St. Ambrose, as a private, Catholic institution with a strong grounding in the liberal arts.
From 2008-2014, Holmes was head men's basketball coach and an instructor at Southwestern Community College in Creston, Iowa, where his teams had five winning seasons in six years. He met Shovlain in that capacity and visited St. Ambrose with a few of his players looking to transfer to four-year schools.
Prior to joining Southwestern CC, Holmes served as a high school basketball coach at six schools: Ottumwa (Iowa) Community (2002-2008), Cardinal Ritter in Indianapolis (2001-2002), Roosevelt in Des Moines (1996-2001), Waverly-Shell Rock in Waverly, Iowa (1994-1996), Spirit Lake in Iowa (1991-1994) and Allison-Bristow in Allison, Iowa (1989-1991).
He also served as dean of students at Ottumwa, athletic director at Cardinal Ritter and assistant athletic director at Roosevelt.
Holmes will join a St. Ambrose Athletics Department well prepared for the future. In addition to new athletics programs, dozens of full-time head coaches have been added, along with new facilities such as the Wellness and Recreation Center, St. Vincent's Athletic Complex, and the AmbroseDome.
In 2015, Ambrose joined the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference, where 18 of its varsity teams compete against some of the best competition at the NAIA Division II level.
"One of my last accomplishments at the University of Maine at Presque Isle was to lead an effort to join the North Atlantic Conference, the school's first-ever conference affiliation," Holmes said. "I definitely appreciate the value of being a member of a strong league such as the CCAC."