Director of Athletics
Director of intercollegiate athletics at three major institutions – The University of Tulsa, Washington State University and Tulane University – with a career spanning 28 years, Dickson’s leadership skills were highlighted in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and throughout his career. A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1972 he graduated from Bishop Kelly High School, where he was a multi-sport athlete, earning All-State accolades in football and baseball. Dickson played defensive back from 1972 to 1976 for The University of Tulsa, where he began his career in athletic administration as interim athletic director in 1988. In 1989, Dickson was appointed director of athletics at the age of 34.
He spent six years as athletic director at his alma mater, where he was instrumental in forming a football scheduling alliance that evolved into Conference USA and the expansion of the Western Athletic Conference. He played a lead role in the campaign to attract an invitation to the 1991 Freedom Bowl as an independent collegiate football team with the city-wide Take Tulsa Campaign. His hiring of men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith resulted in schools first-ever Sweet 16 appearance in history and launched a decade of success in men’s basketball.
In 1994, Dickson began his tenure at Washington State, where he served as athletics director until spring 2000. There, Dickson oversaw an athletics program that was recognized nationally for its success in dealing with gender equity issues. He raised funds for a capital campaign for scholarships and endowments, an indoor practice facility and the renovation of Bohler Gymnasium. Washington State enjoyed on-the-field success during his tenure as they achieved a Top 50 Sears Cup ranking for first time in history, highlighted by the football team’s first Rose Bowl appearance in 67 years in 1998.
During his tenure at Tulane (2000-2016), he garnered support from the campus community, donors and alumni to: sustain the university through an internal review of the program’s D-1 status; build or rebuild every GreenWave facility after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans; and restore Tulane’s athletics department to the required 16 D-1 sports.
Dickson was the recipient of the 2004 Award for Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame for his leadership in guiding Tulane Athletics through the difficult time of the university’s board review.
During the 2005-06 campaign, Dickson kept Tulane teams viable by overseeing the evacuation of student-athletes from New Orleans in advance of Hurricane Katrina, and then providing opportunities for the Green Wave’s teams to continue competing while dispersed to four campuses in Louisiana and Texas. Working with no home facilities, a depleted budget and the university shuttered for the fall, Tulane Athletics was charged to “Carry the Torch, Be the Face and Represent the Name” not only of Tulane but New Orleans and the entire Gulf region.
In the aftermath of Katrina, Dickson oversaw and presented a plan to the Tulane Board of Administrators to return the Green Wave athletics programs to full-time Division I status with the full complement of the required 16 sports. The plan restarted many of the sports programs suspended as a consequence of the deadly hurricane.
From 2011 to 2016, Dickson raised $200 million toward the investments in new and restored on-campus athletic facilities.
- Yulman Stadium: The construction of a state-of-the-art stadium on Tulane’s campus has brought Green Wave football back to uptown New Orleans after 40 years of off-campus play. Yulman Stadium, with a capacity of 30,000 spectators, has created a home-field environment for the team while strengthening the student experience at Tulane.
- The Hertz Center: Dedicated in fall 2011 as the new practice facility for the Tulane’s men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball programs.
- Devlin Fieldhouse: One of the historic venues in college basketball underwent a transformation with the restoration and renaming of the 81-year-old building that has been home to Green Wave basketball and volleyball teams. Devlin Fieldhouse officially opened on Nov. 9, 2012.
- Greer Field at Turchin Stadium: The brand new facility opened in 2008 and was built for a cost of $14.5 million. With a capacity of 5,000, the pro-style Greer Field at Turchin Stadium features a grandstand design of structural steel with private suites, an open-air club suite, a partially covered seating area and a new press box.
Dickson established the Devlin Student-Athletes for Education (S-AFE) Center for Leadership Development. The S-AFE Center incorporates the principles of philanthropic service and leadership into the student-athlete experience and enhances the Tulane athletics department’s outreach efforts with coordinated planning, training and oversight.
Upon retirement as Tulane University’s director of athletics, Dickson created R.P. Dickson Consulting LLC, delivering planning and training services to intercollegiate athletics, assisting many universities with projects including Title IX reviews, departmental organization, fundraising and marketing campaigns and facility development.
In 2019, Dickson accepted a year-long role as the CFP New Orleans ambassador, serving the Extra Yards for Teachers Campaign, supporting public school teachers of New Orleans. He remained active in athletics with leadership roles as co-chair of the Collegiate Tennis Advisory Committee and Team Gleason Board, supporting and advocating for people living with ALS. He has served on the boards for Ronald McDonald House and Big Brothers. For his nearly three decades of service in intercollegiate athletics, he was honored as recipient of CFP & All State Sugar Bowl Distinguished American Award for 2020.
Dickson is a 1977 alumnus of The University of Tulsa. His wife, Brenda, graduated from TU in 1979. The couple has three daughters, Kari, Kasi and Kelli; a son, Doug; and six grandchildren.