In The Press

  • "Athletes Seek 'Seat At Table' in New College Sports Model"

    Last week the Lead1 Association, a trade group for FBS-level athletic directors, discussed revenue sharing and bargaining with athletes at their annual meetings in Washington, D.C. Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke, the group’s current board chair, said the directors in those conversations were open-minded about finding a more sustainable future for college sports but couldn’t envision bargaining with college athletes.

  • Tom McMillen: As Realignment Spins, College Sports' 'Dog-Eat-Dog' Culture on Display (Part 2)
    Tom McMillen: As Realignment Spins, College Sports' 'Dog-Eat-Dog' Culture on Display (Part 2)

    “The NCAA should give any kid that wants to transfer in these realignments, they should allow it to happen,” he said. “They need to give them mobility to move to another situation, even if they don’t have any transfer ability left. They’ve got to do some things like that to even the playing field.”

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  • Tom McMillen on Likelihood of Federal NIL Bill: 'Hopeful, but not hugely optimistic' (Part 1)
    Tom McMillen on Likelihood of Federal NIL Bill: 'Hopeful, but not hugely optimistic' (Part 1)

    “There will not be a bill in Congress that comes out that codifies non-employment status,” McMillen said. “It’s dead on arrival. And so there’s going to be round two. Round two is going to be much more important – much more existential.”

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  • "On NCAA Enforcement and the Possibility of a ‘Catastrophic’ College Sports Betting Scandal" (Part 2)

    Tom McMillen, a former Congressman who now is CEO of LEAD1 Association, which advocates on policy issues facing FBS athletic departments, believes the biggest issue is something else entirely: Ramifications from the legalization of sports betting.

    This is part 2 of a Q&A with McMillen (part 1 is here) whose LEAD1 Association also creates working groups on issues such as NIL, transfers, diversity, equity and inclusion and enforcement, and it provides feedback to the NCAA on best practices for representative governance. It also seeks to generate consensus opinion among FBS athletic directors on significant issues.

    Three important takeaways from McMillen:

    + McMillen said, down the road, the implications of sports betting on college sports is “truly existential.” The ramifications could be “catastrophic.” He said the NCAA last conducted a study on how much student-athletes bet on sports in 2003 – long before it became legal in more than half of the states – and the entire industry would benefit from an up-to-date study to benchmark the prevalence of sports wagering by athletes. He said sports integrity experts say there is a 100% likelihood of a sports betting scandal on a college campus in the next few years.

    + McMillen’s view is that the NCAA should strongly consider outsourcing its enforcement apparatus. Staging championships like March Madness while also being tasked with policing rulebreakers makes for an odd juxtaposition.

    + The majority of NIL deals, he said, have turned into so-called “goodwill payments” so coaches can recruit and retain athletes. That’s not what NIL was intended to be.

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  • "On the NCAA Seeking a Narrowly Focused NIL Bill and the ‘Inexorable Road’ to Athletes Becoming Employees" (Part 1)

    Tom McMillen, a former Congressmen who is the CEO of LEAD1 Association, which advocates on policy issues facing FBS athletic departments, says pursuing an NIL-only bill right now is the way to go. LEAD1 Association creates working groups on issues such as NIL, transfers, diversity, equity and inclusion and enforcement, and it provides feedback to the NCAA on best practices for representative governance. It also seeks to generate consensus opinion among FBS athletic directors on significant issues.

    This is part 1 of a Q&A with McMillen.

    Two of the important takeaways from a wide-ranging discussion with McMillen:

    + McMillen sees Congress passing a federal bill addressing NIL. But it needs to be narrowly focused. It could include other related items, such as Title IX protections. McMillen says new NCAA president Charlie Baker needs to get all conferences behind him – “get his army behind him” – and focus on achieving this initial victory before seeking help on larger issues, such as potential employee rights for athletes and antitrust issues.

    + McMillen believes college sports is on an “inexorable road” toward athletes having employee rights. Among athletic directors, he said there is a “high level” of concern regarding this scenario taking hold. Under the employment model, he said, one consequence is that the vast majority of college athletes, some 90 percent who don’t play in revenue-producing sports at marquee schools, could face diminished opportunities. McMillen says some schools could devolve into offering club-level sports teams.

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  • College Partnerships Are Bringing Sports Betting to Campus. Are Students Safe?
    College Partnerships Are Bringing Sports Betting to Campus. Are Students Safe?

    “I don’t think you can stop sports betting on college campuses.” said McMillen. “This is unique America; you’re going to have betting on campuses, on events on campuses, and I think there are risks to higher education with that, but it is almost inevitable. You have this huge sports enterprise on campuses across the country and so universities are adopting it, much like they adopted beer drinking and liquor at football games.”

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  • "Incoming NCAA President Charlie Baker Will Not Relocate to Indianapolis to Work at Headquarters"

    “I don’t think that’s a bad strategic decision to focus more attention and resources on Washington,” said Tom McMillen, a former congressman who now runs the LEAD1 Association that represents the 133 athletics directors in the Football Bowl Subdivision. “As long as you have a myriad of states passing conflicting legislation, I don’t think you have much choice other than to have an activist Washington presence. That was sort of a premise of the search.”

    At first blush, Baker choosing to maintain his residence in Massachusetts could give off a similar ivory tower vibe. But McMillen, who has spoken with Baker frequently since he accepted the job, said that isn’t going to be the case.

    “He’s got to restore that common touch to the NCAA,” McMillen said. “I think he’s going to be on the road, going to events, being more of a visible presence. I don’t think being in Massachusetts means he’s going to be in Massachusetts. When you run for office, you’re out there in the hustings. You go out and meet as many people as you can and listen to all these voices. It’s part of being a public official. It’s part of the game. He’s going to approach this like that.

  • "WGHP-TV (FOX Greensboro) Interview with Tom McMillen"

    Tom McMillen, president and CEO of LEAD1 Association, sits down with WGHP-TV (FOX Greensboro)’s Kevin Connolly to discuss the transfer portal, NIL, and potential congressional involvement in college sports.

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  • "18 Months Into the NIL Era, Athletes, Fans and Brands Are Mostly Happy. But Messiness Remains"

    “What this has morphed into is, for 95% of kids, this is bona fide NIL,” said Tom McMillen, president and chief executive of the LEAD1 Association, which represents athletic directors from the 131 members of the Football Bowl Subdivision. “But it’s the 5% — the very top — who are making money that’s probably not connected to name, image and likeness.”

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  • "A Look at the Modern NCAA Transfer Portal"

    FOX 13’s Morgan Vance spoke with Tom McMillen, a former NBA player and U.S. Congressman, who is uniquely qualified to explore the changing landscape of collegiate athletics.

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  • "KSL Sports Zone Interview with Tom McMillen"

    Tom McMillen, president and CEO of LEAD1 Association, joined DJ & PK to talk about the various issues facing collegiate athletics from his perspective of leading LEAD1, which works with FBS athletic directors nationwide.

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  • From The Chair with Mike Hamilton, ft. Tom McMillen
    From The Chair with Mike Hamilton, ft. Tom McMillen

    Joining today’s “From the Chair” is the President/CEO of LEAD1, Tom McMillen. Tom has an incredibly interesting story including being the top high school basketball recruit in the country, holding Maryland’s highest scoring average even today, finishing as the top graduate in his class at Maryland, a Rhodes Scholar and a first round NBA draft pick. Tom takes time to discuss the ’72 Olympics in Munich, the terrorist attacks on those games and the USA’s controversial Silver Medal finish. Tom went on to an eleven year career in the NBA before running for and winning his election to Congress. Tom has always been an advocate for college athletics, certainly while in Congress but even more so in his current role. Tom talks about LEAD1’s role as a thought leader, its role in policy creation, addressing issues like FBS governance, navigating the myriad differences in schools’ needs, the headwinds facing college athletics and much more.

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  • "The NCAA Needs New Revenue—but Likely Won’t Get It From College Football"

    A major emphasis of the recently revealed recommendations from the NCAA’s transformation committee was for Division-I schools to boost their support of athletes. That includes improving travel, expanding the number of teams that play in postseason tournaments and having a full-time mental-health professional dedicated to varsity athletes at every college and university. 

    The NCAA hopes that new revenue will help support those efforts, especially at schools without access to top-tier football rights money to help fund their operations.

    Tom McMillen, president and CEO of the Lead1 organization that represents directors of athletic departments in the football bowl subdivision, said the group’s members haven’t developed a position on whether the CFP or other college-football entities should share revenue with the NCAA. 

    But Lead1’s members “understand that there is a misalignment,” McMillen said. “The NCAA is putting up a lot of resources and lots of costs and yet they’re not getting compensated for this.”

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  • "The Paul Finebaum Show - Tom McMillen on the Hiring of Gov. Charlie Baker"
  • "NCAA Targeting Political Firepower With President Pick"

    The NCAA has been begging for congressional intervention on a number of levels, most notably finding a path on player compensation that reins in the current unrestricted free agency. The colleges don’t want to make their athletes employees; they want uniform national legislation that would provide some control over their earning power and movement between schools. But outside of a few senators and representatives who have been involved in crafting proposed legislation, most of Washington D.C. has shown little interest in getting involved.

    Is the best way to get a political bailout hiring a politician as the new NCAA president? Could be. Perhaps the best person to ask is Tom McMillen, a former U.S. congressmen and college basketball player who now works with FBS athletic administrators at LEAD1. He knows both sides of the NCAA/D.C. equation.

    “Very good choice,” McMillen tells Sports Illustrated. “Inspired in many ways… he brings a lot to the table. Governor is no small task. The most important thing is he brings this political acumen to the table.

    “His constituency is now the 1,100 schools. He’s got to build trust and bonds with those schools. He’s got an interesting blend of qualities.”

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  • "Significant NLRB Move Will Aid Pursuit of College Athletes Becoming Employees"

    The National Labor Relations Board’s Los Angeles Region plans to pursue unfair labor practice charges against USC, the Pac-12 and the NCAA as single and joint employers of FBS football players and Division I men’s and women’s basketball players.

    Many administrators balk at the idea of turning college athletes into employees, but several know what’s coming, said Tom McMillen, the president of Lead1, a DC-based organization that represents the FBS athletic directors.

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  • "With Charlie Baker, the NCAA is Banking On A Political Path Of its Troubles"

    “That is what I mean when I say he understands politics — he understands assembling coalitions, whether that’s commissioners or 1,100 schools,” said former Maryland congressman Tom McMillen, the president and CEO of LEAD1, an advocacy group representing FBS athletic directors. “After he builds those bridges to his constituency, then he’ll be able to go to the legislatures and really speak with more authority.

    “Right now, the NCAA is kind of a battering ram. A lot of times, a lot of members (of Congress) don’t even want to see them.”

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  • "Purdue Fascinates, A Political Prez, FCS Fireworks, Bowl Stakes: Fortuna’s Cover 4"

    “You don’t always have to go for the home run,” McMillen said. “You get some singles and doubles done and that will make a big difference as well. Here’s a guy that ran a $50 billion state, he dealt with very complicated problems, from a higher education environment to transportation, you name it. Sports betting. He dealt with very complicated issues and so (he’s) perfectly equipped to deal with the process of the NCAA.”

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  • "Will New President Charlie Baker's Consensus Building Help NCAA Overcome its Steadily Diminishing Power?"

    “What he has is what most people don’t understand,” said Tom McMillen, CEO of LEAD1, the FBS AD organization, and a former Maryland Congressman. “When you say he’s political or has political acumen, that means he knows how to work with individuals. The biggest constituency he has is the 1,100 schools that heretofore have been pretty fragmented.

    “He’s got to get those folks behind him. Once he has that, then he can go to legislators and talk a whole different game. You don’t get to be the most popular Republican governor in a Democratic state by not being able to do that.”

    McMillen made a good point: It’s rare that a governor of the opposite legislative party in the state house can, well, get along with that body.

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  • "Tom McMillen Joins G&D, One Thought on Every NFL Game"

    Tom McMillen, President & CEO of LEAD1 Association, joins G&D to discuss the decision making behind the college football playoffs as well as the NCAA hiring a new President. Also, he has played in the NBA, and is a former American politician.

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  • "NCAA Reform On Capitol Hill: 6 Questions On the Prospects of Passage"

    “Many of the Republicans would be happy to have a national NIL bill and that is it, harmonize it, and let’s go home,” said Tom McMillen, a former Democratic Congressman who is now president of the Lead1 Association, which represents college athletic directors. “So, that is the delta which has been hard to bridge.”

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  • "How Wren Baker Became A "Star" Among Athletic Directors"

    Tom McMillen, a former congressman, NBA big man and NCAA All-American at Maryland, joins The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast, presented by Pritt & Spano, to answer that question.

    “He gets it,” McMillen said on The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast. “His teams won…He was always considered an up-and-comer in our association.”

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  • "Many OSU Football Fans Nervous As More Players Enter the NCAA Transfer Portal"

    The transfer portal is hotter than ever right now, giving players full freedom to explore their options since 2018. McMillen said that along with changes in name, image, likeness policies, it has made coaching more chaotic than ever.

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  • "Million Dollar Buyouts Expand to College Athletic Directors: Data Viz"

    Tom McMillen, CEO of the athletic director industry association LEAD1, says that because ADs are typically considered part of a university’s leadership—many carry the title of school vice president—they are almost always compensated relative to their boss, the president or chancellor, as opposed to their exceedingly well-paid subordinates coaching football and basketball.

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  • "College Sports' Overlooked Gambling Issue: Improprieties Being Ignored As Betting Soars Nationwide"

    That seemed to be exactly what the MAC was doing, and it made sense. Its partner, Genius Sports, is also the official data partner of the NFL and EPL.

    “I admire the MAC for doing it,” said Tom McMillen, CEO of Lead1 Association, which represents the FBS ADs. “I believe all the conferences will do it.”

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  • "LEAD1 Proposes Appointing COO of College Football"

    According to LEAD1’s proposal, the FBS football governing board “would primarily be comprised of people with significant football knowledge,” and appointed by their conferences.

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  • "Athletic Department Officials Within FBS Pushing For New Governance Model"

    Athletic department officials within the FBS are pushing for a governance model that includes a chief operating officer and an FBS governing board, according to a seven-page proposal from the LEAD1 Association obtained by The Athletic.

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  • "Letter From LEAD1 Proposes Appointing COO of College Football"

    The FBS football governing board would “decide all matters related to FBS football” except for rules related to academics, financial aid and health and safety. While the board would oversee things like officiating, rules and possibly scheduling, many agree there are issues that should remain at the level of university presidents, and the NCAA would remain a legal shield.

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  • "Sport Scene Interview with Tom McMillen"

    Tom McMillen, president and CEO of LEAD1 Association, joins Steve Russell to discuss the state of the NIL in College Basketball.

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  • "Examining Search Firm Placements and Diversity Hiring with LEAD1, MOAA and the Black AD Alliance"

    Lots to unpack from the full conversation as McMillen and Johnson explain the genesis of the idea, the biggest obstacles related to DEI issues in coaching, where in the pipeline the process is breaking down, the potential for expanding the WCC’s Russell Rule nationwide, how presidents and ADs are reacting to the hiring data, what the landscape might look like in five years and more.

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  • "Transfer Portal's Impact Evident With Early-Season College Football Firings"

    “If you’re a coach hired by a school today, it used to be you have to give that coach a few years because recruiting would have to kick in and you can’t have overnight success because it took some time,” said McMillen. “Now, an AD has an earlier window as to whether a coach will be successful or not.”

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