Considering potential candidates for athletic director positions in West Virginia
Following the sacking of Shane Lyons, announced last week, West Virginia Mountaineers are currently working under interim athletic director Rob Alsop while the university searches for a permanent replacement. They hired ZRG on a turnkey basis to help find a replacement for Lyons and hope to find a candidate similar to the candidate they found to be the next Big 12 commissioner, Brett Yormark.
Yormark’s tenure as Big 12 Commissioner was a bit unorthodox, as he previously served as COO of Roc Nation, the entertainment agency founded by rapper Jay-Z.
Yormark spent three years as Roc Nation’s Chief Operating Officer and Co-CEO of Roc Nation Unified before joining the Big 12. Roc Nation is a full-service entertainment company that supports a diverse roster of talent through artist management, music publishing, touring, production, strategic brand development and more. The client list includes some of the world’s biggest names in entertainment and sports, such as Rihanna, Alicia Keys, DJ Khaled, Robin Thicke, Meghan T Stallion, Christina Aguilera, LaMela Ball, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne. The company was founded in 2008 by JAY-Z and has offices in New York, London and Los Angeles.
Yormark joined the company in the fall of 2019 and, as chief operating officer, focused on optimizing operational resources and building the company’s infrastructure to support continued growth. Yormark also oversaw sponsorships, licensing, content partnerships and brand strategy. Additionally, he led Roc Nation Unified, the organization’s commercial and consulting arm that works with artists, athletes, leagues, teams and brands.
See the part in bold. I think that’s important here, especially in conjunction with interim AD Rob Alsop’s words about what West Virginia is looking for in its new AD
We asked our search firm to find the best candidate for West Virginia University. When you think about any type of leader, you need someone who knows, understands and appreciates the team that’s here, the culture that’s been developed, and that we’re continuing on this trajectory of empowering people to do all that they can,” Alsop said. “We also want someone who can continue to be innovative and thoughtful in an ever-changing world.
“From my perspective, West Virginia University is a great place. Our strengths are our brand, history and tradition. We are not a large media market. There are some things where we have to be above our weight class to be competitive. Looking at additional revenue streams and innovation and the ever-changing landscape of college athletics this is what we will be focusing on in our search for our next leader.
Innovative and thoughtful in an ever-changing world. Additional sources of income. It sounds to me like the university is looking for a younger professional who can make the most of the ways West Virginia can be at the forefront of new social media platforms and technologies to generate new revenue for the school. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the candidates that have been mentioned for the AD position.
Rob Mullens – Oregon State AD
Mullens is at the top of the list, just as he was in 2010 when Oliver Luck was eventually hired. Mullens is the principal in Oregon, where he has been since 2010. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at WVU and watched the Oregon program win 17 national titles since its inception. Under Mullens, Oregon State was the first school to launch an official NIL Marketplace, the first licensed collegiate sports marketplace. Marketplace has allowed Oregon State athletes to create their own profiles that can be customized and promoted to fans on their personal social media channels.
Oliver Luck – NCAA Committee and Country Road Foundation
Luck previously served as West Virginia’s athletic director from 2010-2014. At one time, he helped save the mountaineers from the dying Big East the conference that eventually became the AAC and the Big 12 during the expansion wars of 2010. Luck helped shape Country Roads Trust, West Virginia’s answer to name, image and likeness issues. CRT helps athletes find and secure marketable opportunities.
Kelly Zinn – Executive Associate Director of Athletics – LSU Tigers
Zinn started as an assistant AD at the University of Maryland and a compliance assistant in the Big East. From there, she returned to her alma mater, West Virginia, in 2010 and was named associate director of athletics for compliance and governance before being promoted to senior executive director of athletics in 2014. After the departure of Oliver Luck, she was named interim associate director of athletics. Following the hiring of Shane Lyons, Zinn was named associate director of athletics and chief operating officer, providing strategic leadership and operations management for the Mountaineers’ 18 intercollegiate programs. Last year, she was hired as LSU’s executive associate director of athletics and chief operating officer, where she works closely with leadership, administrators and community partners to promote LSU’s growth and success. As part of her responsibilities, she oversees capital projects, revenue generation and strategic initiatives.
Whit Babcock – Virginia Tech Hokies Director of athletics
Whit Babcock received his bachelor’s degree from James Madison University and his master’s degree in sports management from West Virginia. He served as an assistant athletic director at West Virginia from 2003 to 2007 and currently serves as the athletic director at Virginia Institute of Technology, a position he has held since 2014. Babcock was instrumental in the launch of the ACC network, which launched in 2019. He also led the Drive for 25 campaign, which was designed to increase Hokie Club membership to 25,000. The campaign was a huge success, increasing membership from 9,000 to 26,000 in the six years since the program was launched.
Babcock and the Hokies athletic program recently announced the Reach for Excellence campaign to raise $400 million for Virginia Tech.
Kevin Miller – Georgia Bulldogs Senior Assistant Director of Athletics
Kevin Miller is another West Virginia-bound candidate, earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2005 and a master’s degree in sports management in 2006. He previously worked for the Mountaineer Athletic Club and is a WVU Foundation record holder, according to his profile. -time leading phone fundraiser after raising over $320,000 in person. In 2016, MAC was able to raise over $15.6 million and receive over $3.3 million in major gifts. He alone was able to secure 21 of the 53 major gift commitments. Now serving as the Bulldogs’ senior associate director of athletics, Miller is involved in operations that include major gifts, annual giving and donor relations.
Pat Chun- Washington State Cougars Director of athletics
Chung is a name that fans will likely be unfamiliar with, given that the five candidates primarily have West Virginia ties, and Chung is Ohio State graduate. Chun has served as Washington State’s director of athletics since 2018, and in his short time there, he has overseen the revitalization of the athletic department. The Cougars recently raised a record $7.6 million in annual giving and a record $15 million in total contributions in their first year. Subsequent years have been just as charitable, with the program raising a record $26 million in 2019-2020. Chun previously served at Florida Atlantic, rising through the ranks to become the executive associate director of athletics. While at FAU, Chun worked to secure the largest gift in the university’s history, a $16 million gift from the Schmidt Family Foundation.
Before FAU, Chun worked at Ohio State, where he rose through the ranks in the athletics department to become the executive associate director of athletics for external affairs, which allowed him to work with the university and earn $39 million in 2010 and $41 million in 2011. and $42 million in 2012. He was also a leading member of the team that closed the then-largest multimedia rights deal with IMG College, a 10-year, $128 million partnership.
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