A mover and shaker in the Harvard Athletic Department is taking his talents to Palo Alto. Harvard Assistant Athletic Director Kurt K. Svoboda is now the property of Stanford Athletics.
Stanford University Athletic Director Bernard Muir officially announced Svoboda’s hiring on Tuesday. Svoboda, who served as the Crimson’s public and media relations executive for eight years, will immediately assume a similar role with the Cardinal.
During his time at Harvard, Svoboda directed the Harvard Athletic Department’s transition into the social media age, focusing on cost-effective, online productions rather than on media contracts. Svoboda was responsible for the December hiring of Imry Halevi, Harvard Athletics’ new director of multimedia and production—a position created by Svoboda.
“The remaining Athletic Communications staff deserves much of the credit for the transition [to multimedia],” Svoboda wrote in an email. “We focused on changing our respective skill-sets from that of traditional and graphic design professionals to social media experts and willing multimedia and video editing students.”
Svoboda added that the department “championed what is needed in today’s landscape.”
Under Svoboda’s direction, GoCrimson.com, Harvard’s athletics website, expanded its broadcasting reach. The Harvard Athletic Department has most recently added home varsity wrestling meets to its menu of over 150 live events per year. The department’s video features and productions receive 1.5 million annual views, according to a press release.
Athletic Director Robert L. Scalise said that he would be sorry to see Svoboda go and credited him with making important strides in the athletic department’s multimedia broadcasting.
“We’re really proud of Kurt,” Scalise said. “He made big gains in video streaming and multimedia during his time here. He stayed ahead of the technology and he’s really taking it to the next level.”
In addition to his work in broadcast, Svoboda made waves on other social media platforms. In 2011, Svoboda used Twitter to encourage Associated Press pollsters to watch Harvard men’s basketball games online. The Crimson cracked the AP Top 25 for the first time in program history that year.
Harvard men’s tennis coach David Fish ’72, who has coached at Harvard since 1976, acknowledged Svoboda’s role in exporting the Crimson brand.
“Kurt was a dynamic force in the movement of the Harvard sports communications,” Fish said. “We went from much more of a writing-based to a web and video-based system, and he helped Harvard become the number-one, most-viewed athletics site in the Ivy League. He was dynamic, he tried to treat all the sports fairly, and he assembled a great staff of people who worked really hard for him.”
During his tenure, Svoboda directly managed public relations for 12 of the Crimson’s 41 varsity squads, including Harvard’s football and men’s basketball teams. He will now oversee the communications for the defending Rose Bowl Champions.
“Like at Harvard, I look forward to interacting with a large collection of bright and athletically-talented individuals,” Svoboda said. “I am extremely humbled by the opportunity. I am transitioning from the largest athletic department in the country to the most successful one. Both schools illustrate that students can have the best of both worlds athletically and academically. It is a wonderful privilege to tell that story.”
The Harvard Athletic Department has named Timothy J. Williamson as Interim Director of Athletic Communications. Williamson had served as Svoboda’s assistant since December 2007.
—Staff writer David P. Freed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow David on Twitter at @CrimsonDPFreed.
—Staff writer Michael D.Ledecky can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Michael on Twitter at @mdledecky.