From the Chair to a Support Role – Is This a New Trend?


  • Tom McMillen, President & CEO, LEAD1 Association
  • Tom McClelland, Deputy Athletic Director – External Affairs, Vanderbilt University
  • Curt Apsey, Executive Associate Athletic Director of Development, San Diego State University
  • Shane Lyons, Executive Deputy Director of Athletics/COO, University of Alabama


From the Chair to a Support Role – Is this a New Trend?

Former LEAD1 ADs Lyons, Apsey, and McClelland, with more than 100 years of college sports administrator experience combined, joined LEAD1 President & CEO McMillen to discuss their new support roles.


By LEAD1 Association

In recent years, more and more LEAD1 athletics directors have taken positions other than the chair. On that front, LEAD1 recently hosted a webinar “From the Chair to a Support Role – Is this a New Trend?” speaking to several former LEAD1 ADs, now deputy and associate athletics directors, who fall under such criteria. The trio discussed this new trend and shared other insights on the current landscape of college sports. Here are some of the important takeaways from the forum:

  • These former LEAD1 athletics directors know what their current athletics directors are experiencing. Now in support roles, and “not the face of their program(s) anymore,” Lyons, Apsey, and McClelland understand that they are no longer the final decision-makers. But based upon knowing the specific needs of their athletics directors from their prior experiences, they can support, fill in as needed, and provide honest feedback.
  • Additionally, they understand the pressures of social media and the need to have “thick skin” in the chair position. The athletics director position is not as “glamorous” as some perceive it to be. While winning, particularly in football, can bolster the resume and reputation of an athletics director, the work that occurs behind the scenes such as booster engagement and building relationships with people on campus, are also critical. So even though the buck stops with their bosses, these former LEAD1 ADs understand the importance of all components within an athletics operation, many unseen, needed to maximize success.
  • While the college athletics landscape is changing, their passion for intercollegiate athletics remains unchanged.  Lyons, Apsey, and McClelland combined have more than 100 years of intercollegiate athletics experience. Obviously, there are enormous complexities now facing college sports with NIL and outside economic pressures on the model. As such, the role of the athletics director may look very different in the future. The panel agreed, however, that continuing to tether college sports towards getting a degree, and maximizing the athlete higher education experience, will still be paramount in the future.

 Above all, the trio continues to be driven by witnessing their athletes on a daily basis train, practice, and work as a team towards achieving a common goal.