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By Greg Johnson
Anucha Browne always envisioned herself working in the sports business.
After graduating from Northwestern with a degree in communications and following a stellar basketball career that culminated with her being named to the prestigious Kodak All-America team in 1985, it was difficult for Browne to pinpoint exactly where the best fit would be.
Her professional career path ranged from sales jobs to being a program manager at IBM and working on projects for the Summer (1996, 2000) and Winter (1998) Olympic Games. She served as the senior vice president of marketing and business operations for the New York Knicks and was the senior associate athletics director at Buffalo.
All of that eventually led to her current role as NCAA vice president for women’s basketball, which officially became her endeavor in August.
“This is a chance for me to reconnect with women’s basketball,” said Browne, who was twice named the Big Ten player of the year in 1984 and 1985. “To have this be my sole priority was incredibly attractive, because my roots are in the game. The foundation was set for me at Northwestern. It has all catapulted me into a career in sports business.”
Browne will set the strategic direction for, and oversee the operation and management of, the Divisions I, II and III women’s basketball championships.
She brings a unique skill set to the job. She played the game at the highest level, which included leading the nation in scoring as a senior with 30.5 points per game. So she can relate to life as a student-athlete.
Browne also excelled in the classroom. After excelling at Northwestern, she went to graduate school at Florida State and earned a master’s degree in communications with an emphasis in marketing.
“I had the chance to play professionally overseas,” said Browne, who scored 2,307 points at Northwestern, which still ranks sixth all-time in Big Ten women’s basketball history. “Previously, I loved the experience of going overseas playing for USA Basketball. But I decided that I wanted to pursue my career away from the court.”
Browne also brings the experience of working in a senior vice president’s role for the New York Knicks, which was her favorite childhood team while growing up in Brooklyn.
Browne believes her time with the Knicks shows how big business can still connect with people through community-based efforts.
“There are a number of things regarding the business of the sport that apply on the professional level that we can use to develop a community-based platform for student-athletes at the college level,” said Browne, who is the mother of three children.
Browne added that women’s basketball is at the point in its development where coaches and administrators have to commit to grass-roots marketing efforts.
Browne worked as a campus administrator at Buffalo, where she supervised men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, softball, swimming and diving, and rowing. She was also responsible for marketing and ticket sales, corporate partnerships, community relations, event presentation and operations for revenue sports.
“Interacting with the student-athletes was the best part of working on campus,” Browne said. “You see them come in as freshmen and really thrive in their years there. They leave campus being grounded in a strong work ethic and integrity.”
The experience reinforced her feelings about her undergraduate days at Northwestern and how they prepared her for her career.
Browne said she is still close with some of her former teammates, and that bond has lasted through time.
“Coming to work at the NCAA makes me feel like I’ve connected all the dots,” Browne said. “I started as a student-athlete at Northwestern, which is a school that exemplifies what it means to be a student-athlete. Now, I’m in a role where it is about serving the student-athlete.”