Air Force’s new athletic director has one thing in common with the old one: ties to West Point.

Nathan Pine, now athletic director at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, spent four years as a top deputy in the U.S. Military Academy’s athletic department, helping boost Army sports business initiatives. He’s replacing Jim Knowlton, who left the academy for the top athletic post at the University of California. Knowlton was a West Point graduate.

At Holy Cross, Pine led athletics for a small school with big ambitions. The Catholic college has 27 sports teams for its 2,700 students.

“The Air Force Academy is a special place, and I am excited for the opportunity to lead the athletics department at this elite institution,” Pine said in a statement. “This is a tremendous time to build upon the foundation that is already in place within the athletics department.”

Pine takes over an academy sports program with 29 teams for the 4,000 cadets. Knowlton was brought in to clean up the program after a misconduct scandal involving football players.

Pine takes over as the academy wraps up a review of its sports program in the wake of hazing cases involving the school’s lacrosse and swimming teams.

Air Force also has big financial ambitions, hoping that donor cash can spruce up older facilities including Falcon Stadium.

Pine has been adept at increasing sports department bankrolls.

At Army, he cut a broadcast rights deal that sold the Army-Navy game to network television.

Holy Cross has a biography of Pine on its website that described him as a virtual cash machine.

“During his tenure, the athletic department has seen unprecedented growth in fundraising,” Holy Cross says on its website. “The Crusader Athletics Fund has more than doubled over the last four years and raised over $2 million during the 2017-2018 academic year. The CAF surpassed $2 million for the second year in a row and has now brought in over $1 million in each year of Pine’s leadership, after having never reached that milestone previously.”

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A graduate of Oregon State University, Pine got his career started on the Corvallis, Ore., campus by helping to lead a fundraising effort to renovate the school’s football stadium.

He was credited with similar financial miracles during stops at the University of California and the University of Maryland.

But the academy sees more in Pine than a money man. He’s also been a strong advocate for athletes scoring in the academic world.

Holy Cross said Pine’s “student athletes have achieved at the very highest levels of Division I during his tenure, tying nationally for first place in 2014 and third place in 2015 in NCAA Graduation Success Rate.”

The academy took its time in finding Pine. Knowlton left in April, and superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria ordered a national search for replacements.

“I said from the beginning we needed to do this deliberately, the right way, in order to find the best person for such a dynamic and impactful role,” Silveria said in a statement.

Pine said he’s looking forward to life at the academy, a school that rejects eight applicants for every cadet who’s accepted. The school has one of the nation’s most rigorous academic programs, and cadets are also expected to grow into military leaders over four years.

To some degree, Air Force sports have suffered due to the tough expectations and sky-high standards.

The men’s basketball team slumped to 12 wins against 19 losses last year, and the Falcon football team finished the season with a 5-7 record and no bowl berth.

Pine seems undaunted by the drab records for those top sports.

“The Air Force Academy brings in some of our nation’s best and brightest student-athletes, and the shared responsibility to develop them into leaders for this nation is the cornerstone to everything I want to achieve here,” Pine said.

Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

Senior Military Editor

Tom Roeder is the Gazette's senior military editor. In Colorado Springs since 2003, Tom covers seven military installations in Colorado, including five in the Pikes Peak region. His main job, though, is being dad to two great kids.

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