Sanders is a proven leader with a strong entrepreneurial background who knows the value of hard work and conservative budget practices. He has a demonstrated ability to build a collaborative group-first attitude in the organizations he has served and businesses he has owned. His fundamental belief and approach that collectively we can achieve more than any of us can individually, combined with his core principle that multiple viewpoints can have merit and value, make him an ideal Story County Supervisor.
Sanders brought over 15 years of experience in strategic planning and implementation to the Midwest Collegiate Conference when he became Commissioner in 2005 and is responsible for all administrative duties of the league office in Ames. His strengths in critical thinking and consensus building have transformed the structure and function of the MCC, making it a model used by other NAIA conferences.
Before coming to the MCC, the native of Bluff Park, Alabama (a rural area south of Birmingham), most recently served as Associate Athletics Director at the University of Maine where he oversaw all external operations for the 19-varsity sport Division I program. While at Maine, Sanders directly supervised the Marketing and Development Directors, the Ticket Manager, coordinated all event management, and supervised the men’s and women’s hockey, women’s basketball, softball, volleyball and soccer programs. He served as a member of the athletics director’s senior staff for UMaine.
Sanders began his professional career in the athletics department at The University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1990. In 1993 he started Expert Services, an event management company specializing in sporting events and music festivals. After several years he sold Expert Services to a competitor and moved into the professional sports ranks, serving as an administrator within the Birmingham Barons baseball organization before moving to Bozeman, Montana in 1997. While in Bozeman, Sanders served as General Manager of the Bozeman Ice Dogs hockey organization, a Junior A hockey franchise. As general manager, Sanders oversaw the completion of a 3500- seat, $8.5 million ice/event complex while marketing and managing the new franchise. In 1999, the America West Hockey League (AWHL) enticed Sanders away from league member Bozeman, to be their full-time President and Commissioner. Sanders served as primary administrator for the league with teams located in Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, British Columbia and Alaska. In addition to overseeing the league’s $6.5 million (9-team) budget, Sanders handled all league tournaments, sponsorships, franchising and marketing. In 2000, Sanders was selected as the General Manager for the USA Junior National Hockey Team, which won the Gold Medal at the 2000 Viking Cup.
Sanders also as shown an entrepreneurial streak in creating, growing and ultimately selling 3 small businesses in his 20 year professional career. Those included: Expert Services, an event management company in Birmingham; Natural Advantage, a health food distributor in Bozeman; and Cyclone Vending, a supplier of vending locations in central Iowa.
Sanders serves and has served on numerous Local Boards and National Committees including the Story County Emergency Management Commission, Central Iowa Workforce Development Board, Ames Economic Development Commission, Story County Board of Health, Aging Resources of Central Iowa, Lincoln Way Red Cross, Story County Crime Stoppers and Story Theater Company. He was selected by his peers as Chair of the prestigious Conference Commissioners Association which has grown tremendously during his tenure. He is known as an “outside the box” thinker and achiever.
Sanders is a 1989 graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) where he served as a student assistant basketball coach to legendary coach Gene Bartow and his UAB Blazers. Rick and his wife Calli, who is Senior Associate Athletics Director at ISU, reside in Ames. They have three children, Theisen (ISU ‘13), Jack (ISU ‘17) and Molly (United States Naval Academy ’19).