Between the Lines: Athletic Director of the Year Nominees

Each week, Fanalytical delivers three quick reads of curated research and best practices to help Athletics’ leaders engage their fans, improve fan experience, and boost revenue.

This Week: Athletic Director of the Year Nominees

This week, Sports Business Journal announced the 2017 Sports Business Awards Nominees, including Athletic Director of the Year. Whit Babcock from Virginia Tech, Chris Del Conte from Texas Christian University, Dan Guerrero from UCLA, Jay Jacobs from Auburn University and Dan Radakovich from Clemson University were the 2017 nominees. For this week’s Between the Lines, we’re taking a deeper dive into the areas these nominees have made a significant impact in this year.

Program Success

To begin with the obvious, these five athletic directors have lead their teams to great success. A huge attribute of that success stems from the right coaching hires. Clemson University is having one of the best athletic years in school history. Dan Radakovich’s coaches helped lead Clemson to their highest finish in the Learfield Director’s Cup in a decade. Virginia Tech has seen a surge in many of their sports programs, like football’s Belk Bowl-championship season and men’s basketball appearance at the Big Dance for the first time in a decade, thanks to Whit Babcock’s key coaches that breathed new life into the programs.

Facility Enhancements

Enhancements and construction of new athletic facilities are another large component to the visibility of a program. This year, Dan Radakovich (Clemson) and Dan Guerrero (UCLA) oversaw major football and basketball upgrades in their respective arenas. Understanding that these enhancements take serious donation dollars, Whit Babcock initiated the aggressive “Drive for 25” campaign in an effort to more than double Hokie Club membership to 25,000 (a nod to the “25” jersey of former Tech coach Frank Beamer). The ambitious goal is a testament to Babcock’s mission to move Virginia Tech up the ranks in the ACC.

Off-the-Field Relationships

While facilities and on-field success are the most visible aspects of an athletic director’s influence, building effective relationships with student-athletes and providing opportunities for them is one of the most important. Jay Jacobs (Auburn University) has taken many initiatives to create the best student-athlete experience possible. Jacobs meets with the captains of every team at least once a month to get a deeper connection with the athletes. Chris Del Conte (Texas Christian University) also believes in forming strong relationships and setting the example. Del Conte showed his devotion to TCU, declining offers for other AD positions saying, “I don’t want our coaches doing that. I don’t want anyone doing that. I want everyone to be loyal to TCU.”

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