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DI participants in Pathway Program conduct first meeting

Participants use 'meet the press' experience to prep for future

by Todd Goodale

The news conferences wouldn’t be real, but that didn’t make the preparation any less intense. The 15 Division I participants in this year’s NCAA Pathway Program wanted to have answers for potential questions from the media. The group understood that factual issues, and genuine questions, could arise in the future when they might face similar cases.

The Pathway Program – for participants from senior-level positions at NCAA member schools, conference offices and the NCAA national office – is designed to help elevate selectees to their next career step as directors of athletics. The yearlong program is an experiential learning opportunity for participants representing Divisions I, II and III.

The Division I participants in the 2016 program gathered for the first time in late January in Portland, Oregon. The learning process involved some role-playing, with participants designated as athletics directors. Earlier in the month, they each were instructed to submit reports on a number of Title IX issues that included allegations of hazing, misconduct, alcohol abuse and sexual assault.

In Portland, after an opening day of presentations and instruction from subject matter experts, the attendees, broken into three groups, began prepping for staged news conferences where they would address the Title IX allegations. Each group studied the reports it submitted and also had an opportunity to spend more time with the experts before the news conferences. The experts included a Title IX coordinator, an associate dean of students and an associate general counsel.

By the time the news conferences began, the attendees were primed and organized.

“It was a great opportunity to be out in front of the camera and have constructive criticism that goes along with that to prepare me for the next opportunity that comes up,” said Alicia Queally, senior associate director of athletics and senior woman administrator at Stetson University.

After the news conferences, the groups held discussions to review the exercise.

“What a great opportunity to really learn and be challenged and work through group dynamics,” said Jermaine Truax, deputy athletics director at Loyola University Chicago. “What we learned is, in a lot of ways, there’s no right answer. So it’s trying to do the best thing and the right thing and feel good about that on your campus.”

Since its inception in 1997, the Pathway Program, formerly known as the Fellows Program, has produced more than 100 alumni. Nearly 25 percent of participants have gone on to become directors of athletics, while more than 60 percent have received promotions in their careers after going through the program.

The Division I participants will meet twice more during the course of the year. The next meeting is scheduled for June in Boston.

“It was a real leadership lab,” Christian Spears, deputy athletics director at Eastern Michigan University, said of the first gathering in Portland. “We learned a lot, not just from the subject matter experts, but from each other – our colleagues in the business. I can’t tell you how impactful the experience was for the first session.”