In some ways, the job was familiar: she oversaw a multimillion-dollar budget with a staff numbering in the hundreds, and for a club that managed more than two dozen sports and fitness offerings. But in at least one major way, it was different – autumn of 2021 was the first fall in 25 years that Johnson didn’t spend on a college campus.
“It was a big move for me, and it’s been great,” Johnson said. “But I miss being on a college campus. I miss the student-athlete experience.”
A little over a year later, Johnson is returning to her roots. The former Portland State and Willamette University athletic director has been hired as Deputy Athletics Director, Senior Woman Administrator and Deputy Title IX Coordinator at the University of Oregon.
“We were looking for a strong leader with a commitment to the student-athlete experience who could help Oregon Athletics build on its momentum department-wide, and particularly with our women’s programs,” UO director of athletics Rob Mullens said. “Val’s high-level administrative experience combined with her enthusiasm for supporting student-athletes and coaches make her the perfect fit.”
Johnson is a 2000 graduate of Cal State-Chico who earned her master’s in counseling from Long Beach State in 2003. She began her career as a college athletics administrator working in academic support and student-athlete enhancement at Boise State in 2006, joined Portland State as senior woman administrator in 2013 and served as AD at Willamette in 2015-16 before returning to the Viks as athletic director from 2017-21.
“Oregon is a whole different ballgame, and another opportunity for me to grow,” Johnson said. “It’s a learning opportunity, to see how not only Oregon does it, but the Power 5, the Pac-12 Conference. To do that with such a high-caliber team across the board – from student-athletes to coaches to administration – I’m just truly humbled.”
While at Portland State, Johnson served as an NCAA Playing Rules Oversight panel member, and participated in Title IX Coordinator training through the National Association of College and University Attorneys. During her tenure at Willamette, she served with the NCAA Division III Diversity and Inclusion working group.
Johnson will go into the job with some familiarity about her new home. Her daughter is a sophomore at the University of Oregon. And she has worked with Mullens in various capacities, as colleagues in two of the most high-profile athletic director positions in the Pacific Northwest.
“He is such a good guy and he gets it – you can tell by the people he surrounds himself with,” Johnson said. “That’s a testament to his leadership.”
At Oregon, Johnson’s responsibilities will include direct oversight of sports including volleyball and women’s basketball, whose coaches were involved in the search process.
“One of the priorities from Rob that resonated the most to me was to be present and approachable for coaches and student-athletes,” Johnson said. “My passion lies in building relationships throughout the department and university. Knowing that this is a key component of the mission and values, made this position a perfect fit.”