Veteran College Athletics Publicist John Heisler Retires

Longtime intercollegiate athletics media relations and communications professional John Heisler, a member of the College Sports Communicators Hall of Fame, will retire this week after more than a half-century of service at Missouri, Notre Dame and UCF.

He began by spending five years at his alma mater, Missouri (the first four as a student assistant), followed by more than 40 years at Notre Dame. In the last five years as senior associate athletics director at UCF, he has overseen the Knights’ strategic communications department.

“I owe so much to two accomplished Hall of Famers in our profession—Missouri’s Bill Callahan and Notre Dame’s Roger Valdiserri—for believing in me and providing me so many opportunities to learn and grow in the media relations business,” said Heisler. “Most recently, (UCF athletics directors) Danny White and Terry Mohajir gave me the chance to help tell UCF’s story as we moved into the Big 12 Conference.

“I distinctly remember stuffing a couple of hundred football media guides into envelopes before I attended my first class at Mizzou. I am so grateful for all the connections I made along the way—so many great friends among the media, athletes, coaches, sports communications professionals and athletic administrators.

“My freshman year at Mizzou I met people like (College Football Playoff executive director) Bill Hancock and (National Football Foundation executive director) Steve Hatchell and 50 years later they remain good friends and professional colleagues.

“As much as I have loved it, after 51 years of working football games every fall, that just seems like enough. 

“None of this would have been possible without the constant support and encouragement from my late wife Karen, who worked in and around this business her entire career and was my best proof-reader, and my sons Scott (associate head men’s lacrosse coach at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut) and Tim.”

John Heisler_Cropped

Heisler spent more than 40 years as a member of the University of Notre Dame athletics staff—serving his final 14 years there as senior associate athletics director. His tenure included 16 years as the university’s sports information director beginning in 1988. He added the title of assistant athletics director in 1995 and became an associate athletics director in 2001. 

Working in the areas of media relations, broadcast properties and contest scheduling at Notre Dame, Heisler served as sport administrator for men’s lacrosse for more than two decades (and previously for women’s lacrosse). He served two years as the Division I administrator on the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association board of directors.

He worked 32 college football bowl games and assisted in the administration of the research operation at two Summer Olympic Games (one for ABC, one for NBC). He provided color commentary on both television and radio for Notre Dame athletic events and won a Telly Award for his video production work.

“Since he arrived in 2019, John has been a strong asset for our department,” said UCF Vice President and Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir. “He’s worked in this business for over 50 years, has a wealth of knowledge and experience working with the local and national media.

“John is a collegiate icon with media relations and has done a great job telling our story. We thank him for all of his contributions to UCF and wish him all the best in his retirement.”

“It’s been a blessing to work alongside John Heisler the last three years, who’s one of the best in the business and a CoSIDA Hall of Famer. We wish him nothing but the best in his retirement,” UCF football head coach Gus Malzahn added.

Heisler has written, co-written or edited 12 books (all but one of those on Notre Dame football), one of them a New York Times bestseller. He was responsible for production of Notre Dame’s acclaimed Strong of Heart publication, annually featuring a series of stories about individuals connected to Notre Dame athletics, that three times was voted best in the nation. 

A member of the College Sports Communicators (formerly CoSIDA) Hall of Fame, Heisler helped originate a writing contest for that organization. Among his awards are the Bert McGrane Award for distinguished service to the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and citations from the Heisman Memorial Trophy Trust, the Indiana Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association and the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley. Notre Dame honored him with its special presidential award, and the Notre Dame Monogram Club presented him with an honorary monogram.

Heisler earned 30 "best in the nation" awards from CoSIDA for Notre Dame athletic publications, including 10 of those citations for Irish football media guides. 

His final day at UCF will be Jan. 12, 2024.

A native of South Bend, Indiana, Heisler is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.