Trends in the Roles of College Athletic Directors

Steve Berkowitz and Jodi Upton of the USA Today recently featured an interesting article on collegiate athletic directors and their salaries, comparing them to CEOs of corporations.  (Also see their chart with the salaries of Division I athletic directors).  Both athletic directors featured, Mark Hollis of Michigan State and Dave Brandon of Michigan, have extensive business backgrounds. 

According to Berkowitz and Upton, these athletic directors “represent a template of the mega-multitasking CEO-model AD that universities have come to covet and compensate in fast-increasing fashion.”  The authors also note that “[athletic directors] must have creativity, imagination and vision, but they better know NCAA rules to the letter.”

A few years ago, it appeared that colleges were increasingly looking for their athletic director to have legal knowledge to deal with the NCAA and various contract issues.  With NCAA compliance issues continuing to plague college athletics at its highest levels, it can be argued that legal issues are as important as ever before.

Here are two articles that I wrote in 2008 on sports lawyers becoming athletic directors, concerning Notre Dame’s Jack Swarbrick and Indiana’s Fred Glass:

Notre Dame Set to Hire Sports Attorney As Athletic Director

Another Sports Lawyer Turned Athletic Director

Although NCAA compliance is important, this article suggests that colleges first look for a business person to run their athletic programs.

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