table of contents
Issue 8  |  january 2023


Trailblazer Candice Lee Leads Commodores into the Future


Music City remains undefeated! 

Our 2022 CALS was one for the record books. Great people, great vibes in a great setting!

There are always several moments during each CALS that stand out. This year’s came early during our Opening Dinner hosted by Vanderbilt Athletics at the Country Music Hall of Fame. 

The conversation between our host, Dr. Candice Lee and SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey was one of the most impactful sessions in all of our 12 CALS. The openness and honesty on topics ranging from the state of college sports to work/life balance was extremely impactful for a group of leaders navigating a unique time in college athletics.

The opening dinner session set the tone for meaningful connection and collaboration throughout the remainder of CALS. It is exactly what we strive for this event to be – a place where people can come to learn and grow while authentically connecting with leaders.

As with every CALS there was an awesome group of people who worked to make our event in Nashville a huge success.

Dr. Candice Lee is a trailblazer. She is Vanderbilt’s first female athletic director and the first Black woman to head an SEC athletics program.  In addition, she is a dynamic leader who exudes humility. It was truly an honor to have her serve as host for CALS 23.

A big thank you to our campus coordinator Tommy McClelland. Tommy is a 12-timer! He’s been at every CALS. Long before the role he played this year, he served as a trusted advisor and advocate and over the years has played a significant role in the growth and the success of our event and community. 

Thank you to all the athletics staff at Vanderbilt for their assistance and graciousness with a special shout out to Hannah Johnson for all her hard work before and during CALS.

Each year I’m blown away by our faculty. In Nashville, we were able to bring together some of the top leaders in college athletics who have a real passion for helping others along their journey. Each year we have more faculty members who came up attending CALS and bring a unique perspective and familiarity to the event.

Thank you to our partners. Their expertise and support have been invaluable to making CALS what it is today. We cherish these relationships, many of which have lasted over a decade at this point.

Finally, to the team that makes CALS go.

The CALS intern program started in 2014 and now we have some former interns coming to CALS as attendees! I would like to thank the eight graduate assistants that came from all over the country to make up this year’s intern class. Your positive attitude and hustle were a huge key to this year’s event. 

A special thanks to my partner with NextLevel, Joey McCutchen, for being a constant source of encouragement and support. Ryan Bradley and Grant Hill have helped CALS look and sound good for over a decade. Their council is invaluable, and their investment is a great asset to the CALS community.

As usual the Reece family was rolling deep to CALS this year. It is so much fun for me to have my wife, daughters, nieces and mom there to support and pitch in wherever needed. This industry calls for long hours, travel and lots of preoccupied thoughts. I am grateful for their support and love including them in the journey. That being said, I didn’t have to twist anyone’s arm when I told them it was in Nashville!

A big thank you to my sister, Laura Keep, who did an amazing job of leading the team and running this year’s event. She is a great sounding board for all things CALS and always helps keep me moving in the right direction.

And of course, the ultimate CALS go to guy, Forest Reece. He has played a huge role in coordinating and directing each CALS since 2011. He loves the CALS community, and you all love him right back. He’s a great employee and a better dad!

Next Stop. The Queen City!

We are very excited about taking CALS 2023 to Uptown Charlotte! David Chadwick of RealResponse has played an instrumental role in bringing our event to his hometown and we look forward to working with the whole RR team as they host the CALS 23 Opening Dinner. We are also excited to have Charlotte AD Mike Hill and his team involved in coordinating CALS 23. 

As the calendar turns to 2023, college athletics finds itself in a season of unprecedented change. What I know for certain is that this industry is full of leaders who are prepared to meet these challenges and continue to set the course for what the new normal in college sports will be. It is our goal and passion to continue to serve, connect and encourage this community every step of the way.

Will Reece
CALS Director

Next Section →

SIGHTs from cals22

Next Section →

Candice lee:

by Ryan Bradley



Candice Storey Lee could not have imagined the road ahead when she left Madison, Ala., as a teenager and made the short drive up I-65 to begin her college basketball career at Vanderbilt. 

A profession in college athletics was nowhere on her radar. Eventually becoming the athletic director at her alma mater would have seemed unfathomable at the time. After all, there was no precedent for a Black woman in that role at an SEC institution. 

Two decades of hard work and the powerful influence of several role models changed her perspective and opened new doors of opportunity.    



Lee arrived at Vanderbilt in the Fall of 1996. She battled through knee injuries and received two medical redshirts before leading the Commodores to an SEC Tournament championship as team captain in her final year of eligibility. 

Lee pointed to her prolonged career as a student-athlete as a key factor in opening her eyes to a career in athletics. 

“It was really a blessing,” Lee explained. “I got to go to graduate school. But during that time, I also saw Carla Williams.”

Lee first met Williams when she was a high school prospect and Williams was coaching women’s basketball at Georgia. Their paths crossed again when Williams joined Vanderbilt Athletics as an administrator near the end of Lee’s playing career.

“That was an important moment for me, even if I didn’t realize it at the time,” Lee recalled. “I was seeing a woman, and beyond that a Black woman, who was in an administrative role. I knew she was well-respected, and I also got to know her. She is to this day both a great friend and mentor to me and it started at that time.”

Lee received an internship opportunity at the end of her sixth year on campus. David Williams had just been hired as Vanderbilt’s General Counsel and offered her an internship in student affairs. 

“David gave me an internship with no promise of full-time employment,” Lee explained. “But about two weeks into the internship he told me that there may be an opportunity in athletics, so I moved over into academic support.” 

Williams soon became Vanderbilt’s athletics director and over the next decade he continued to invest in Lee, offering her opportunities for growth and increased responsibility.

“I went from academic support to compliance to being the SWA and overseeing sports, being over internal operations and ultimately worked my way up to being the number two person.” Lee outlined.


All told, Lee spent 17 years working for Williams. She continued her academic pursuits while working her way up the ladder in the athletics department. After receiving her master’s in counseling, she went on to earn a doctorate in higher education administration in 2012. 

Lee admits she considered leaving Vanderbilt for other opportunities early in her career, but credits Williams and others at Vanderbilt for consistently investing in her. 

“I really benefited from being in an environment where I had people who were champions for me,” she stated. “I had opportunities to leave Vanderbilt, but the reason why I stayed was because Vanderbilt was an environment that was always pushing me and nurturing my development.”

Choosing to stay in the same place didn’t mean Lee was risk averse. Any time a new challenge was made available, she jumped in with both feet.

“When presented with an opportunity I said ‘yes,’ even if I didn’t know if I was ready to do it. I’ve been fortunate to benefit from a lot of mentors and I try to spend time and support other professionals, particularly up-and-coming professionals, as much as I can because I greatly benefited from that.”

“The impact that Candice has on the people around her is easy to see,” Carla Williams said. “It is also easy to recognize the impact she is having and will continue to have in our industry.”

Another one of Lee’s early mentors was Greg Sankey. Lee took on compliance responsibilities at Vanderbilt as Sankey was joining the SEC as Associate Commissioner for Governance, Enforcement and Compliance.

“I always gravitated towards him because I knew I could learn a lot from him,” Lee said of Sankey. “He’s always been superb under pressure and a really thoughtful and smart person. Over time, he became a trusted resource and someone who I could call and pick his brain about jobs or get his insight on things.”

“Candice and I began our administrative careers in the Southeastern Conference at nearly the same time,” Sankey recalled. “It has been enjoyable growing alongside her as a colleague in the ensuing years. From day one it was clear she had the leadership qualities, knowledge, character and disposition to lead at the highest level of college sports.”



Lee recalled David Williams first talking to her about the possibility of becoming an AD around 2015. But it wasn’t until Carla Williams was named athletics director at Virginia in 2017 that Lee really believed it was possible. 

“I remember being really emotional about that,” Lee expressed. “It was so cool to see a Black woman in that role. We’d never seen that before at this level.”

“People had told me what was possible before then, but with Carla I actually got to see it. That was an important signal to me.” 

Just three years later it was Lee’s turn to serve as a trailblazer, becoming the first female athletic director and first Black woman to lead an SEC athletics program in May of 2020. 

Lee is quick to acknowledge the significance of her appointment and the mantle she now carries. 

“I feel I have a huge responsibility as a woman and as a woman of color because I understand the importance of representation,” she explained. “I know it in my own life from watching Carla.” 

“On one hand, I want to be known as a good athletic director, period. I want to be known for the quality of my work and who I am as a leader. But being a Black woman is a huge part of my identity so of course I carry that into everything that I do. It’s part of my lens and how I see the world. Proudly, it’s the way that I see the world.” 

“There are many ways to consider diversity and representation,” Carla Williams explained. “Our population, in college athletics, is diverse so it should not be an anomaly to have diverse leadership. Yet, that is often the focus. Candice is incredibly gifted and could be leading any major organization. There are many others who would do the same if given the opportunity.”


new leadership and new vision

Once she got the job, Lee knew replacing herself had to be her first order of business. She identified Tommy McClelland as her deputy for external affairs and Kristene Kelly as deputy for internal affairs. 

“This surprises people, but I didn’t know Tommy and I didn’t know Kristene,” Lee noted. “I knew of them, and I certainly did my homework, but I actually wanted people who I thought would not come into Vanderbilt with preconceived notions about me, about the department or the University. I thought fresh perspective was important for us.”

Lee recognized the importance of fresh perspective as she began to implement her vision. 

“I knew I had to attack a different narrative about who we were going to be as an athletics department at Vanderbilt,” she stated. “I didn’t need more people who understood Vanderbilt. I got that. I know Vanderbilt. What I don’t know are other institutions. 

“I think they filled in gaps we had with our team. I like the direction our staff is going.”


vandy united

With her chief lieutenants in place and the backing of new Chancellor Daniel Diermeier, Lee led the development and launch of the Vandy United Fund in 2021. The campaign was designed to support Lee’s vision that one of the world’s preeminent academic institutions in one of the nation’s best cities can thrive in the most competitive athletic conference in college sports.

“Vandy United represents a commitment to maximizing our potential,” Lee explained.

A $300 million investment in athletics facilities are a tangible representation of that commitment. 

“David Williams did the hard things and made sure our student-athletes had great opportunities and experiences when it came to internships, immersive educational experiences and those types of things,” Lee stated.

With the support of Vandy United, “We can be a place that’s going to allow you to study abroad, and use your platform, and have agency in your experience AND also win an SEC Championship and a National Championship. We can actually do all of those things,” she proclaimed.

“If we’re going to be serious about that commitment, you’ve got to have facilities that are at that level because that’s what people see.”

“It’s an opportunity for us to capitalize on what we’ve done really well in the past. Because I’m the first to say we’ve done some really good things and David Williams and many other people deserve credit for that.”


new opportunities

Vanderbilt has a bold vision and real momentum since Lee took the reins. She has also added value and unique perspective to the SEC that didn’t exist before her arrival. 

“It has been gratifying to see Candice’s career unfold at Vanderbilt, first as a student-athlete, then as a prominent administrator before rising to her position as director of athletics,” Sankey said. “She is an important voice among the SEC’s athletics directors and her perspective on issues, especially as an advocate for student-athletes, is one that is critical and respected by her peers.”

“In our league I feel very supported,” Lee stated. “I think my male counterparts have been tremendous. They’re good teammates and colleagues.”

“Sometimes I get emotional about it because the fact that we’re still talking about the first of anything in 2022 is frankly kind of embarrassing,” Lee continued. “Because I know some really highly capable people across genders, across ethnicities that deserve opportunities.” 

Carla and (Duke Athletics Director) Nina King and I speak often. We feel fortunate to have the opportunities that we have and know that how we perform and what we do will be really important for insuring there will be more opportunities for women and people of color.” 

“I want to be a lifelong learner. So, I learn from Candice,” Carla Williams stated. “She is a wonderful person, first and you have a special place in my heart when my children look up to you….and my children look up to Candice Lee.”

Williams and her children are among a growing list of individuals who have been touched by Lee and her leadership. She could have hardly envisioned the influence she would accumulate when she first arrived in Nashville 20 years ago. 

Today, Lee impacts those around her in countless ways – as a role model, a mentor, a friend…and perhaps most importantly, as a visual example of what is possible.



With Candice Lee

Favorite book? 

Emotional Agility
— Susan David

Favorite quote? 

“Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.”

WHO IS THE Leader that you admire most? 

Perry Wallace—first black basketball player at Vanderbilt and the SEC

Most memorable moment from Vanderbilt? 

The day I became the athletic director. Something I never could have imagined when I first came to Vanderbilt as a student-athlete from Madison, Ala. 

What would you be doing if you weren’t in athletics? 

I would be a teacher, or a principal. 

Next Section →



Total Attendees


Previous Registered Attendees


First Time Registered Attendees

Participants by Division:

Division 1 247

Division 2 8

Division 3 6



Total Athletics Administrators


Division 1 Conferences Represented

Participants by Conference:

SEC 34

ACC 30

Big 12 23

Conference USA19

Sun Belt19

Big 1018



Missouri Valley12

Big East10

Pac 1210

41 States

+ Washington D.C. Represented

Participants by State:

Texas 30

Tennessee  19

Indiana  12


Louisiana 11






Search Firms Represented

Bowlsby Sports Advisors

CarrSports Consulting

Collegiate Sports Associates

DHR Global

Eastman & Beaudine

Parker Executive Search

Renaissance Search & Consulting


Next Section →

cals22 recap

Opening Dinner 

at the Country Music Hall of Fame

Dr. Candice Lee
Vice Chancellor for Athletics & University Affairs & Athletic Director, Vanderbilt University

Greg Sankey
Commissioner, Southeastern Conference

Building Championship Sport Programs

Graham Neff
Director of Athletics, Clemson University

Gene Taylor
Director of Athletics, Kansas State University

Laird Veatch
VP & Director of Athletics, University of Memphis

Eric Wood
Director of Athletics, Louisiana Tech University

Moderator: Kristen Brown, Deputy Director of Athletics, Texas A&M University

Creating Alignment—How to Resolve Differences in Vision and Direction

John Roberson
CEO, Advent


Where are we Going? The Future of College Athletics

Ross Bjork
Director of Athletics, Texas A&M University

Julie Cromer
Director of Athletics, Ohio University

Troy Dannen
Director of Athletics, Tulane University

Chris Grant
Commissioner, Southland Conference

Moderator: Ryan Bradley, Vice President, University of Alabama

Navigating NIL & the Evolving Compensation Model

Josh Brooks
Director of Athletics, University of Georgia

Jim Cavale

Nina King
VP & Director of Athletics, Duke University

DeWayne Peevy
VP & Director of Athletics, DePaul University

Moderator: Jim Curry, Senior Associate Athletics Director, Florida State University

By Alexandra Preusser

The integration of name, image, and likeness into college athletics has both excited and confused important stakeholders, including athletes, college administrations, brands and even congress. At CALS 2022, NIL and the ever-changing compensation model was on the forefront of everyone’s minds. 

Starting off looking through the student athlete lens, Jim Cavale, CEO of INFLCR, said that a lot of student athletes expected to make a ton of money right away. Social media platforms saw an influx of student athletes’ posts saying, “DMs are open” to let companies know that they were ready to sign a deal. However, what most student athletes found out quickly, was that it wasn’t as easy as they originaly thought. 

In what seemed like a blink of an eye, coaches became more invested, and the tension between coaches and compliance grew. No one knew the best way to approach this or how they were even allowed to. 

Then, collectives started to emerge, but how do we define a collective in terms of college athletics? DeWayne Peevy, vice president and director of athletics at DePaul University, said if you ask five different people, you’ll get five different answers. Peevy noted that collectives can be crowdfunding or a tax-deductible donation or anything in between, showing the wide-range of collective possibilities. 

In NIL, it is important to set up guardrails but also to make sure student athletes are taking opportunities. One of the most important subtopics in the NIL discussion is around the recruiting process. Josh Brooks, director of athletics at the University of Georgia, emphasized that an important guardrail is keeping third party groups out of the recruiting process. Brooks wants the recruiting process to go back to the basics. 

“If another school is promising you anything, they are either lying to you or they’re cheating,” Brooks said.

At DePaul University, Peevy said that he has told his coaches to stay out of the NIL conversations with recruits. Coaches redirect any NIL conversations, from parents or a recruit alike, to Peevy in the Athletic Director office. 

“So, that way, whatever that shift [in conversation] is, because it’s changing every month, I can dictate what that conversation is and know that we are not getting out of hand,” Peevy said. “But it also gives me a sense of control.”

Many campuses are putting in their own standards and regulations around NIL. This raises the question of the need for federal legislation. Nina King, vice president and director of athletics at Duke University, said that with individual state laws, every school is playing under different rules, but everyone is recruiting the same athletes. She also said that with legislation, it is an invitation for congress to come in and potentially add more and more regulation in college athletics and NIL. She opened up the conversation about alternative ways to even the playing field without federal legislation.

“I think we really need to figure out, do we need federal legislation? And, are we prepared for, if we are asking for that, what else comes with it?” King said. “Can we think of alternative ways to kind of set the playing field evenly… maybe an alternative is that it be regulated at the conference level. Start there and see how, within our conferences, we can kind of have a more even playing field.”

Another challenge that has emerged through NIL, is the comparison game. Everyone, especially coaches, is hearing and seeing what other schools are doing, and often times, it is leading to misconceptions. Brooks said making sure transparency is in the process is a way to protect the athletes and make sure they aren’t signing their career away when a big dollar amount is presented to them. 

“Coaches are living with FOMO,” Cavale said. He went on to say to that educating coaches about the resources and the ways to navigate NIL can add to the transparency piece and help coaches lead their athletes.

At the heart of it all, NIL is potentially a way for athletes to provide for themselves after the game is over. It’s also a way for them to think of themselves as more than an athlete. Cavale said that a lot of athletes don’t fully understand the implications of paying college athletes in particular compensation models, including aspects like termination and less free gear. 

It all boils down to the narrative. Students want the cash, and that is what scares King about the collectives because colleges need that donor money for mental health and other student athlete development resources. She said that we need to shift the narrative to make sure everyone is on the same page. 

Read MoreShow Less

Lessons from the AD’s OfficE

presented by Paciolan

Bubba Cunningham
Director of Athletics, University of North Carolina

Dr. Candice Lee
VC & Director of Athletics, Vanderbilt University

Hunter Yurachek
VP of Intercollegiate Athletics, University of Arkansas

Moderator: Christian Lewis, Chief Revenue Officer, Paciolan

Leadership in an Ever-Changing Environment

Wren Baker
VP & Director of Athletics, University of North Texas

Desiree Reed Francois
Director of Athletics, University of Missouri

Alan Haller
VP & Athletics Director, Michigan State University

Jamie Pollard
Director of Athletics, Iowa State University 

Moderator: Kevin Barefoot, Director of Business Development, Teamworks

Taking People with You: The Power of Influence in Leadership

John Anthony
CEO, Anthony Travel

Jennifer Baker
Director of Athletics & Recreation, Johns Hopkins University

John Brody
Chief Revenue Officer, Learfield

Brent Jones
Director of Athletics, Troy University

Moderator: Haven Fields, Deputy Director of Athletics, Ball State University

A Comprehensive Approach to DEI

Tim Duncan
Vice President of Athletics & Recreation, University of New Orleans

Dena Freeman Patton
VP & Director of Athletics, Morgan State University

Randale Richmond
Director of Athletics, Kent State University

Ziggy Siegfried
Director of Athletics, University of Evansville

Moderator: Kristene Kelly, Deputy Athletics Director, Vanderbilt University

The Arms Race Never Stops! Planning, Funding & Building Facilities 

Jeramiah Dickey
Director of Athletics, Boise State University

Darryl Dunn
The Nations Group

Will Ellerbruch
National Sales Manager, Daktronics

John Niemuth
Director of Sports, AECOM

Moderator: Marcus Hilliard, Senior Associate Athletics Director, University of Tennessee 

The Way Forward: Priorities and Goals in a Changing Landscape

Martin Jarmond
Director of Athletics, UCLA

Nicki Moore
VP & Director of Athletics, Colgate University

Danny White
Vice Chancellor & Director of Athletics, University of Tennessee

Moderator: Tanner Gardner, Senior Associate Athletics Director, Rice University

By Alexandra Preusser

Change is inevitable. Change is scary. The ability to be flexible and adapt is a skill that, in itself, needs to change with differing landscapes and environments.

Three years ago, Martin Jarmond, director of athletics at UCLA, never thought about partnering with student athletes for an NIL deal or which donors have businesses that could support student athletes. Now, it’s an every day thought and an everyday conversation.

“I think from the standpoint of the student athlete, how we support them, you think about opportunities…and at a cost also, so that’s something that I think we have to find that harmony, that balance between what that looks like for your program and what that looks like for student athletes,” Jarmond said.

Preparing for change is something that has to be done, even if what you expect isn’t close to what actually happens. Nicki Moore, vice president and director of athletics at Colgate University, said she helps her staff assess resources and priorities in order to tie it back to the department’s purpose. The staff prepares themselves to make decisions as the landscape shifts, which requires constant discussion and rewriting.

Conversations around NIL were not something any of our panelists predicted would happen five years ago, let alone creating a whole position for NIL. Danny White, vice chancellor and director of athletics at the University of Tennessee, said that his role used to be about fundraising, building culture, supporting student athletes, and donors, and while all of these things are still part of his job, the landscape has shifted to include NIL. Tennessee, like many other schools, has added an NIL director to their staff. 

As conversations shift, so does technology. It seems that each day there is a new shiny piece of equipment to use in sports and entertainment. White came into his role at Tennessee expecting to talk about bigger facility projects and coaches’ compensation. But what wasn’t on his radar was the fan experience and sport science technology. He said that Tennessee has invested a lot into these new products because athletic departments have to keep up or get left behind.

At Colgate, Moore has invested in partnerships to connect student athletes with resources. Colgate Athletics has added a wellness advocate program that is led by athletes across various sports. They have also partnered with the campus chaplain to provide counseling services 15 hours a day in athletic spaces. In addition to these moves, athletics has brought career services closer to the department. Through it all, Moore emphasizes the importance of making sure university communications and athletics communications are aligned.  

Out on the west coast, Jarmond has helped his department partner with UCLA’s law and business school. These partnerships are in place to help advise student athletes in the world of NIL. Another investment the Bruins have focused on is adding student athlete services, including hiring more therapists, but it still isn’t enough.

“At the end of year survey, the number one thing they [student athletes] wanted to see is more therapy,” Jarmond said. “You know, I never saw that five years ago, and so that’s something we are doing PA announcements at games about mental health and your wellbeing and taking a mental minute.”

With a changing environment comes figuring out the best organizational structure to be successful. Moore’s personal foundation of loving, listening, and leading is what motivates each and every organizational structure move she makes. 

“When we talked about what leadership was for us, was finding something you can make better and take someone with you,” Moore said. “So, really the first year or two, trying to emphasize and get everyone thinking of themselves as a leader.”

Jarmond said that he sells two things: hope and winning. Specifically, this year, his mantra is only doing what he can do. He knows he has to manage his energy and knows he has to be great in different areas of his life. 

In any organizational structure change, White wants to make sure his employees know how they are making an impact and how they can have success together. He emphasized the importance of aligning individual ambition, where the employee wants to go, and the goals of the organization. Before all of this, though, it is about hiring the right people.

“It can’t just be me,” White said. “What’s the message? For us, it’s getting what we want to accomplish done…when the success happens, everyone benefits. The more we can be thoughtful about having a targeted approach, that’s what we try to do.”

Strategic planning is an important process in any business; however, it is hard to set goals when things are changing and there is new legislation and new rules.

At the University of Tennessee, White said their strategic planning document is living and breathing and is something they need to revisit all the time. He acknowledged that there are things the department wants to accomplish, but everyone needs to know that it can and most likely will change. Strategic planning is a huge part of building a brand from the inside out, but the question that looms is how do schools get people to buy in?

Jarmond shared an interesting perspective with UCLA’s move to the Big 10 in two years. He is focused on staying steadfast to who the Bruins are, where they are going, and how they get there. All of this leads to the ability to compete at the highest level on day one. 

Similar to Jarmond at UCLA, Moore’s team at Colgate has five foundational goals and each member of the staff is evaluated on them. 

“We talk about, every year, five foundational goals: academic achievement, athletic success, personal and career development, community engagement, and resource stewardship.” Moore said. “If we aren’t doing those things well, we aren’t going to be making progress.”

Setting a foundation is a theme throughout Moore’s personal and professional philosophies. Throughout her career, she has learned and grown into a leader that is clearer about what her expectations are. Being a better follower and being more empathetic upward are two aspects that have helped her become a better leader. Overall, Moore has become a little less aspirational and a little more practical.

White’s leadership style has changed a lot. The simplest thing doesn’t make his head explode anymore, and he focuses on hiring good people and letting them do their job. 

“If you get really good people, and get out of their way, most of the time, pretty impactful things can happen,” White said. 

After the pandemic, Jarmond has been able to integrate more empathy into his leadership style, and he said that the higher up you go, the harder it gets. He knows that he doesn’t know what it’s like to be a marketing director or a human resources officer, so he focuses on being mindful. 

These three athletic directors are not alone in this ever-changing landscape. The only way to get through it is to go through it, and that way is the way forward. 

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Show Me the Money: Revenue Creation in College Athletics Today

Bill Fagan
CEO, The Aspire Group

Amy Folan
Associate VP & Director of Athletics, Central Michigan University

Chris Prindiville
Senior Vice President, Fanatics

Brian White
VP & Director of Athletics, Florida Atlantic University

Moderator: Dan Gale, President, Leona

It’s About the Student Athletes: Championing Health & Wellness

Dixon Gillis
CEO, A-G Administrators

Samantha Huge
Executive Director of Collegiate Partnerships, Real Response

Jeremy McClain
Director of Athletics, University of Southern Mississippi

Nate Pine
Director of Athletics, Air Force Academy

Moderator: Charvi Greer, Deputy Director of Athletics, Tulane University

I’m New Here: Lessons from Year 1 in the Chair

Bryan Blair
VP & Director of Athletics, University of Toledo

Scott Carr
Athletics Director, Florida International University

Christina Roybal
VP & Director of Athletics, Northern Kentucky University

Christian Spears
Athletic Director, Marshall University

Moderator: Rebecca Pany, Senior Associate Athletics Director, Indiana University 

Next Section →

partner spotlight

by Ryan Bradley

Dixon Gillis

A-G Administrators, CEO

A national championship pedigree and a passion for the family business has motivated A-G Administrators CEO Dixon Gillis to scale his service company and identify new ways to add value to college athletic departments across the country. 

Before launching his professional career, Gillis helped the University of Pennsylvania rowing team win a national title and later earned a spot on the USRowing team. Since taking the reins of A-G in 2009, he’s made a habit of recruiting former college student-athletes to join his team and attributes their fierce work ethic and keen understanding of the landscape with much of the organization’s growth and success. 

“The competitive environment of always trying to push yourself to become better as an athlete translates so perfectly into the business world,” Gillis said. “We hire a lot of former student-athletes and ‘recovering’ athletic administrators. It’s been a really fun experience because if we can hire people who formerly served the people that we’re serving, it translates to our big objective here at A-G which is providing value.”

Today, A-G serves over 700 colleges and universities as the leading managing general agency and third-party administrator in the sports and special risk accident medical insurance space. 

Gillis’ father started the company in the early 1980s and developed a core business of managing accident insurance for K-12 schools. The Pennsylvania-based operation has grown its footprint in the college space exponentially since Dixon Gillis hung up his oars to join the firm. A-G has nearly doubled its work with college programs over the last five years alone and now boasts partnerships with more than 60% of the Power 5.  

Gillis credits a three-pronged focus on solutions for the company’s success in cultivating new clients – service, savings and technology integration. A-G’s unique service model encompasses these three pillars to reduce the financial and administrative burden on families, institutions, and insurance programs when a student or student-athlete is injured. 

“We are constantly watching out for the universities whom we serve to make sure that we’re providing the best benefit for the lowest cost,” Gillis said. “That is what has allowed us to really grow in this space.” 

When a student-athlete suffers an injury, they may or may not have primary insurance. Often when they do have insurance, it doesn’t cover all of the medical expenses. Schools hire A-G to provide excess insurance after primary so there is no obligation left to the student-athlete or the institution. To that end, A-G processes approximately $350 million of medical expenses annually. 

“We’re aggressive in going out and getting better deals and managing the finances for the institution,” Gillis explained. “We’re a third-party administrator so we’re also paying the bills and this allows the athletic trainers and medical staff on campus to get out of the day-to-day chore of the insurance details.” 

Gillis points to the agility and experience of A-G’s staff as two factors that differentiate the company from other agencies in the marketplace. 


“We have a remarkable sense of creativity and we’re nimble, especially as it relates to partnering with the risk-takers of an institution,” he said. “We’re always working to improve and evolve as we hire people who’ve lived in the environments we’re serving, it gives us a unique competitive advantage over our competition.” 

A-G serves as a strategic partner for institutions who are looking for innovative solutions and who also want their organizations to serve as champions for student-athlete health and wellness. 

“Our partnership with CALS is important because most attendees may not be aware of the value our service provides,” Gillis added. “But what we do represents such a big part of their sports medicine program and the experience their student-athletes are having on their campuses. We want to provide meaningful awareness for athletic leaders about the value of student-athlete health and wellness.”

After serving on a panel at CALS in Nashville, Gillis noted the spirit of reciprocity that exists at the annual event and the opportunities it provides for constructive dialogue. 

“To be able to collaborate with those professionals in such a personal setting brings so much value back to our organization and hopefully we can provide that same value to their organizations as well.”



With Dixon Gillis

Favorite sports team?

United States Rowing Team

Favorite sports moment?

The Eagles winning the Super Bowl in 2018

Favorite book

The Energy Bus – Jon Gordon 

Proudest personal accomplishment

Providing the opportunity for a career for our growing team and their families. 

Favorite quote


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social media buzz

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The following is an excerpt from Jeremie Kubicek’s latest book: 

The Peace Index:

A Five-Part Framework to Conquer Chaos and Find Fulfillment

Purpose Versus Responsibility

What gets you out of bed in the morning? I know, I know—an alarm. Other than that, why do you do what you do?

“I don’t know,” some could say, “I just do what I am supposed to do.”

“Supposed to do” is not a Purpose. Nor is “responsibilities.” Those come after Purpose. They don’t define it.

Purpose is the central motivating aim of your life—the reason you get up in the morning.

Purpose can guide life decisions, influence behavior, shape goals, offer a sense of direction and create meaning. For most, Purpose is connected to vocation—what you do. I like to think that Purpose mixes who you are with what you do. 

Purpose is more “want to” than “have to.” Are you getting out of bed every morning because you “have to” or “want to”? “I have to take the kids to school.” “I have to go to work to make money to pay for the mortgage and the car and the braces and the…” Is your Purpose tied to your responsibilities as a parent, employee, or boss? Or does your Purpose come from the core of your existence and the meaning of your life?

If “have to” is the norm, it is time to dust off your vision and work toward what you want. It might just be time to reflect on why you were born, what skills you bring to the world, and how you can fulfill your God-given talent.

Purpose mixes who you are with what you do.

The Golden Years

You have time to figure out your Purpose. As I share stories, I don’t want to cause despair, but, rather, provide perspective.

To help the executive I mentioned at the start of this chapter, I took her through an exercise I tend to use to frame the perspective of her Purpose. Why don’t you join me by following this exercise as well?

For years, I have been studying the typical ages of leaders in critical roles, industries, and countries. I have discovered that the most influential years in a leader’s life are between 55- and 70-years-old. “What!” most will exclaim (especially the young bucks). I know that sounds preposterous but hear me out.

The average age of the president of the United States at the time of inauguration is 55.

The average age of CEOs is 59.

The average age of a U.S. congressperson is 57.

The average age of a U.S. Senator is 63.

The average age of university presidents is 62.

I once had a chance to speak to the mayors of every prominent city in Germany at a hidden restaurant under the German embassy in Brussels. We were all gathered around with Munich-style drinks, the predictable giant pretzel, and some of the best schnitzel I have ever had. I inquired about their ages and averaged them together. Want to guess what it was? Fifty-nine years old. 

The prominent positions in the world are led by those aged 55 to 70. Why is that? Precisely because they have:

Focused on a Purpose that fits them.
Failed and succeeded repeatedly.
Time to focus on their Purpose as they have finally sent off those pesky kids (sort of joking). 
Money to do what they want to do.
Influence because of their competencies and years of credibility.
Connections with other influencers who help them with their Purpose.

What does that mean for you and your Purpose?

It means that you have time to prepare for your Purpose.

The exercise is simple. Subtract your current age from 55. The answer is how many years you have before entering your influence years. I have five. What about you? Some may have 10 years, and some may say 22 years. I also realize that some may be two years into their influence years or even more. That is perfect. It is never too late to step into your Purpose.

The sales executive I was coaching realized that there was time. She wasn’t late. She could still live out her purpose even though she was frustrated for staying too long in a job that now caused her despair. 

I find that most people feel relieved when they go through this exercise. It gives perspective. It helps you realize that you are in a marathon, not a sprint. You can shift your mind to prepare for the influence seasons. I find that Peace often improves on this idea alone. Marinate on this big idea—you have time to figure out your Purpose. You don’t have to hurry—you can rest in hope. You can find what you were designed to do.


Of the five P words in the Peace Index, Purpose is the most important for me. It is my leading indicator, my driver. If it is off, everything else in my life is off. I must know that what I am doing matters. For others it may be People, Personal Health, or another of the P words.

Another way to describe Purpose is what I am called to do. What do I have a strong urge to do with my vocation—like a conviction? That is the level of Purpose that I have always desired.

It means that at the end of my life, I have lived out my Purpose and done what I was called to do.

My wife knew that she wanted to be a dental hygienist in kindergarten. Sure enough, she became a dental hygienist. We then had children, and her Purpose changed. She felt called to make her work the raising of our kids. That was a good, long season. However, her Purpose was not tied solely to our children. She did the hard job of dusting off her vision and Purpose. She started a company called Visionary and is now a developer of neighborhoods, event spaces, and homes.

Do you know what you were made to do?

Do you fully grasp what you are naturally gifted to do?

Do you know what you are passionate about doing?

Purpose is an ongoing journey, and callings change with the seasons.

All of us have a Purpose; some find it.

Jeremie Kubicek is a powerful communicator, serial entrepreneur and content builder. He creates content used by some of the largest companies around the globe found in the books he has authored: The 100X Leader, 5 Voices, 5 Gears and the National Bestseller, Making Your Leadership Come Alive. His latest book, The Peace Index, was released in October of 2022. Jeremie was a keynote speaker at CALS 2016 in Kansas City. 

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Deputy Director of Athletics/Chief Revenue Officer at smu

What does your current role at SMU entail? What are your areas of responsibility? 

Primarily my duties are as liaison to the SMU Office of Development and External Affairs and Business and Finance, while overseeing all aspects of fan experience as well as marketing, ticket sales and operations and Mustang Sports Properties. I also serve as sport administrator for men’s basketball and volleyball.

During your career, you’ve spent time at other institutions and in other roles. Tell us a little about your path to your current position and how your previous experience helped shape you as an administrator.

I started my career in athletics as a student basketball manager at Temple University for John Chaney and Fran Dunphy. My first full-time job was in ticket sales for the Atlanta Hawks and the former Atlanta Trashers. I missed college athletics and wanted to go back and get my MBA (for free) so I applied everywhere to get an entry level marketing job. I accepted a position at New Mexico State University, moved sight unseen, and worked in marketing and development there. After that, I worked at New Mexico and Temple in various development roles. As I considered my career and next step, I sought to expand my skill set beyond external functions and applied for the role at SMU. Having a development background has helped me tremendously in my current role and building relationships with coaches and staff, as well as colleagues across campus. 

Please share your degree history and how your coursework has helped you in your career. 

I have a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing and a master’s degree in business administration. Don’t misinterpret my next comment, education is important, but getting up at 4:30 am as a freshman for practice and learning life lessons from two legendary coaches has helped me more in my career than an accounting class. 

Tell us about being a men’s basketball manager in college. How important was that position in relation to your making a career in sports?

My last comment was a good transition for this question. I met Jay Wright once at an event after Coach Dunphy introduced me as one of his former managers. Immediately he said he’d hire any former manager for a role on his staff because they don’t ask a ton of questions before they find a way to get things done and work harder than most. Being a manager really helped develop my internal motivation to work hard (just because you should and not to get credit or praise) and my competitive drive. My freshman year was the hardest transition because of the morning practices and because of what most of our student-athletes experience in college, balancing having a social life and showing up 100% for your role every day. The only time I’ve cried out of happiness was when we beat St. Joe’s at the buzzer in the Palestra. I don’t want to bore anyone with more stories, but this experience tremendously impacted who I am and how I approach my job each day. 

Discuss a couple of people that have been role models/mentors to you in your career to this point and what they’ve offered you.

When I think about this topic two areas of mentors come to mind. People who have helped shape who I am to the core and people in my life that have helped me develop a sharper skill set professionally. Foundationally, my father really helped shape some of my character traits that show up. Honesty, loyalty, hard work. Coach John Chaney taught me about toughness and not making excuses. Coach Fran Dunphy taught me to leave things better than you found it (he would always pick up trash on campus in North Philly as we walked around saying “Lauren Adee we should always leave places better than we found them”). He also emphasized treating everyone with respect and giving back when you have an opportunity to do so. 

Professionally, my development skill set was sharpened by Mark Ingram, the Director of Athletics at UAB and Kris Graves, the Associate Vice President for Development at the University of Delaware. Mark taught me how to “get that money” when I was so new to the business and Kris taught me to focus on the things that mattered like doing the job I have well and not comparing myself to others. Rick Hart has sharpened my leadership skill set and has taught me a lot about managing through difficult times, how to create buy-in and alignment and that you “can’t mess with happy” when you work in college athletics. 

How have you grown as a leader throughout your career? 

Well, I hope I’ve grown as a leader. You’d have to ask people that I’ve worked with over time if that is true. One thing that I’ve tried to do is be more self-aware and understanding that everyone is different and leading in one way isn’t going to get the best of the individuals that you work with. I continually need to adjust and receive feedback to change and adjust my style to others. 

What is some advice that you give to people just starting out in their career in college athletics? 

Only do it if you love it. You can always find a better paying job and work less hours. What will keep you in this profession is the passion you have for the mission and purpose of the industry and the people you surround yourself with. The true mission and purpose of college athletics makes this profession so special and rewarding. 

Discuss the role that professional development events like CALS and others have played in your career.

One professional development program that is conducted through the NCAA, The Dr. Charles Whitcomb Leadership Institute, gave me my closest confidantes and true friends in the industry. It was also the right program at the right time to develop me when I was a middle level administrator searching for more. CALS is amazing because of the programming and the community that continues to build each year. I always take something away that I want to implement back on campus and meet another genuine connection (not just a business card someone handed me in the lobby).

Would love to hear about anything fun or unique about SMU that you’ve really enjoyed. Any hidden gems that visitors to the area shouldn’t miss?  

I’ll be honest and say I never thought I’d live in Texas (east coast girl), but I have fallen in love with Dallas. Whether it’s going to my pilates studio or trying any of the amazing restaurants here, there are so many great things to do both on and around the Hilltop. There’s a great sense of pride in working for a university that represents such a great city. The alignment and buy-in from the University’s leadership for athletics is unmatched (from my personal experience). We’ve invested $250 million dollars in athletics facilities over the last decade and we’re currently in a $1.5 billion-dollar comprehensive fundraising campaign, while Dallas is one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. Great things are happening at SMU and in Dallas. 

What book/podcast/tv show are you currently recommending? 

The last books I read were The Hero Code, which was Rick’s gift to the staff for our all-staff reading for the year and Do Hard Things. The TV show I’m currently watching is House of Dragons and I just finished DAHMER. I know I’m a millennial, but I don’t listen to podcasts. 

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Cals 1-day

CALS 1-Day combines the culture and community of CALS into a one-day regional event for athletics departments within approximately a 300-mile radius of the host site. It is open to collegiate athletics departments and administrators of all levels and provides an opportunity for professional development and networking.

On June 9th, 2022 we held our first CALS 1-Day in Waco, Texas in conjunction with Mack Rhoades and the Baylor Athletic Department where we welcomed over 200 administrators from 20 athletic departments in the region.

"The CALS 1 Day we hosted at Baylor in Waco, I believe it is fair to say, exceeded the expectations of everyone involved. The vision was to bring the professional development depth and relational magic of CALS to a 1 day setting accessible to more of the athletic department. Waco is within a 3-hour drive of 81% of the population of Texas so it was ideally centrally located for this event. We were blown away to have 19 athletic departments and nearly 200 attendees. The result was an atmosphere rich with excitement and hunger to learn.

The day’s agenda was well-conceived with universally applicable topics in athletics ranging from managing coaches, to creating an elite student-athlete experience, to navigating one’s own career, and much more. The socializing over lunch and coffee breaks were fun and an extension of the idea-sharing that occurred throughout the day. We at Baylor were honored to host the inaugural one, we look forward to doing it again, and we can’t wait to watch this concept continue to grow."
— Kevin Goll

Athletics Chief Strategy Officer
Baylor University  

Special Thanks to AECOM

2023 CALS 1 DAY

June 21, 2023

Newark, New Jersey — NJIT

Hosted by NJIT AD Lenny Kaplan

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Congrats to CALS Faculty & Alumni on Recent Moves

Since the last issue of The CALS Report

John Johnson

Nebraska Senior Deputy AD → Portland State AD

Ziggy Siegfried

CSU-Bakersfield AD → Evansville AD

Pat Kraft

Boston College AD → Penn State AD

Dena Freeman-Patton

CSU-Dominguez Hills AD → Morgan State AD

Blake James

Miami AD → Boston College AD

Jason COomer

Southern Illinois Deputy AD → Lindenwood AD

Mike Harrity

West Point Deputy AD → Dartmouth AD

Kevin Saal

Murray State AD → Wichita State AD

Stephanie Rempe

LSU Deputy AD → Nevada AD

Nico Yantko

Louisiana-Lafayette Deputy AD → Murray State AD

Andrew Goodrich

Syracuse Deputy AD → Gardner Webb AD

Kyle CondeR

SMU Senior Associate AD → CSU-Bakersfield AD

J Batt

Alabama Deputy AD → Georgia Tech AD

Nicki Moore

Colgate AD → Cornell AD

Wren Baker

North Texas AD → West Virginia AD

Jared Mosley

North Texas COO → North Texas AD

Zac Selmon

Oklahoma Deputy AD → Mississippi State AD
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NextLevel’s 14th annual FINAL 4 TIP OFF PARTY

March 30th, 2023
8:00–10:30 PM

A great opportunity to connect with the CALS community, administrators and coaches from all over the country.

Invitations go out March 1st

THank you, cals22 interns

A big thank you to our CALS 22 Intern team. We appreciate all of your hard work and look forward to the great things you all will accomplish in this industry.


Thank you to all our amazing partners for your support of CALS and college athletics.

Issue 08, january 2023

CALS Director:
Will Reece

Creative Director:
Grant Hill

Contributing Editors:
Ryan Bradley
Laura Keep
Forest Reece

Contributing Writers:
Ryan Bradley
Laura Keep
Jeremie Kubicek
Alexandra Preusser

Nate Ward & Various Other Photographers

Finch Creative, Oklahoma City

The CALS Report is the official publication of the Collegiate Athletics Leadership Symposium, produced by NextLevel.

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