Women and College Sports Leadership: Inroads and Issues


Few people know college athletics better than Chris Plonsky, University of Texas Women’s Athletic Director, and Patti Phillips, CEO of Women Leaders in College Sports (formerly NACWAA). Both Plonsky and Phillips have seen college sports change dramatically over the years and specifically in regards to women’s participation in leadership. Women are making inroads into top jobs in college athletics, they say, but this progress is inconsistent and not certain to continue. Women leaders, for example, will need opportunities to…

From Athlete to Athletic Director: A Profile of Amy Backus

What path takes a girl from the basketball court of an Ohio high school to a university athletic director’s office? Amy Backus’ career journey wove from high school basketball star in Vermillion, Ohio, to student-athlete at Central Michigan University, to college coach and now to an AD position at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. At each stop on the path she has strived for personal achievement, institutional success, and especially to make a difference in the lives of…

How to Recruit an Athletic Director

By Greg Santore, Leader, Sports Leadership Practice

What is the best way to conduct a college or university athletic director search? There is no one-size-fits-all approach, as AD search committees take many different paths to the hire. Along the way, there is tremendous pressure to make the right decision for often-divided constituents, from alums and donors to faculty and top administrators.

To find a great AD, I…

College Presidents Talk About Athletics: Where Does the Buck Stop?

By Greg Santore

In a recent article for Forbes.com, columnist Jason Belzer and I explore the complicated relationship between university presidents and their athletic departments. As we note in the introduction, college sports are extremely lucrative today. In 2014, football revenues alone brought in more than $3.4 billion. Even at smaller institutions, the success of sports teams greatly influences overall institutional spirit and success.

Leadership of each athletic enterprise rests in the hands of one person: the president (not…

College Athletic Director Search: Too Fast and Furious?

People in the world of sports have a natural inclination to get to the finish line as soon as possible. This often includes how they look for coaches and leaders. When a college or university conducts an athletic director search, for example, alums and stakeholders inevitably call for the process to be sped up. “We need someone in place,” they say, whether to protect the institution’s reputation or to ensure continuity in fundraising.

The problem is, says

In Future Talent Wars, It’s Survival of the Fittest

For anyone involved in recruiting and talent management—or anyone concerned about his or her long-term career viability and talent development for that matter—it’s helpful from time to time to step back and consider the global forces that are shaping our labor markets in the U.S and abroad. Do they favor you? Your organization?

In many of the industries and market niches that Witt/Kieffer serves, executives who make a difference with sophisticated skill sets are near-impossible to find. We’ve written about…

Sustainable Sports Foundations: Lessons from Livestrong and Lance

The bigger they are, the harder they fall. In the world of sports foundations, they don’t get any bigger than Lance Armstrong, and thus the recent “epic” and unfortunate downfall of the American sports icon would seem to spell doom for the Livestrong foundation that he started and spearheaded for more than a decade.

But that hasn’t been the case at all, notes Greg Santore, Vice President…