The LEAD1 Association had its start over 30 years ago.

Homer Rice, the former athletics director at North Carolina, Rice and Georgia Tech urged the 1A Directors of the Football Subdivision Schools to create their own professional organization as the Division 1A athletic directors were the only NCAA division not to have its own professional organization and the athletic directors wanted a greater voice in the conduct of college sports. The LEAD1 Association was founded in 1986 (and formally incorporated in 1988) as the Division 1A Athletic Director’s Association. There were 97 athletic directors in attendance at the first meeting in Chicago in 1986 and Homer Rice was elected the first president of the association. The athletic directors who attended decided that the association would be dedicated to the future success of student-athletes. At present, LEAD1 has 131 athletic directors as members from the schools of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).

Gene Hooks, the former athletics director at Wake Forest University, took over as Executive Director in 1988, lasting until 1997. He incorporated the life skills and wellness program for student-athletes that Dr. Rice had implemented successfully at Georgia Tech University known as CHAMPS. The Homer Rice award was also formalized, which is presented annually to a retired athletics director in recognition of their distinguished career.

From 1997 to 2015, Dutch Baughman served as the Executive Director of Division 1A Athletic Director’s Association. A varsity athlete at Ohio State University in football, wrestling, and lacrosse, he was athletics director at Oregon State University, Virginia Tech, and Furman University. Throughout his career in college sports as an administrator, the constant theme was his concern for the well-being of the student-athlete and concern for all sports programs, not just the high-profile teams. This also marked his tenure at the helm of the Division 1A Athletic Director’s Association.

Tom McMillen¬†took over as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Division 1A Athletic Director’s Association, now LEAD1, in September 2015.

While the mission of LEAD1 remains the same in its dedication to the success of student-athletes, both in the classroom and on the playing field, and in college and afterwards, the appointment of McMillen represents a new era with a renewed emphasis on the traditional ideas of the well-being of the student-athlete. A major part of this has been the rebranding campaign that resulted in the new name, public appearance, and mission statement. The LEAD1 headquarters relocated to Washington, D.C., in 2015 to allow for greater engagement with national policy makers that have a profound impact on student-athletes.

The LEAD1 Official Spring Member Meeting and Forum will feature an evening welcome reception on April 23, 2023 a closed-door LEAD1 athletics director-only meeting on April 24 followed by hot-button panel sessions, which will conclude on April 25, 2023.

LEAD1 also annually conducts the Institute, a three-day educational forum where experienced athletics directors teach and share information and know-how with the Institutes’ participants, who are typically senior level FBS athletics administrators nominated by their universities’ athletics directors to attend the program. The goal of the Institute, started by Baughman, is to help the participants be better prepared to move into the role of athletics director. The Institute also features the awarding of minority scholarships to those who have demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities in college sports administration with the potential to advance to an athletic director position. Next years’ Institute will be held on June 25-28, 2023 in Ann Arbor, Michigan at University of Michigan.

The 2023 LEAD1 annual meeting will take place September 18-20, 2023, at the Conrad Hilton in Washington, D.C.

The mission statement of LEAD1 Association, unanimously approved by its members, is, “Supporting the athletic directors of America’s leading intercollegiate programs in preparing today’s students to be tomorrow’s leaders.”