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NCAA Pathway Program

The Pathway Program is designed to elevate those currently in senior-level positions within athletics administration to the next step as a director of athletics. This year-long program is an intensive, experiential learning opportunity for 12 selected participants equally representing NCAA Divisions I, II and III.

Since its inception in 1997, the Pathway Program (formerly the Fellows Program) has produced more than 90 alumni. Nearly 25 percent of the participants have gone on to become directors of athletics, while more than 60 percent have received promotions in their careers.

Programming Overview

Following the year-long program, you as a participant will be able to identify how your values fit into the philosophy and execution of leadership within intercollegiate athletics. Additionally, you will develop knowledge and skill sets in areas such as budgeting, strategic planning and fundraising, and then learn to apply those skills to your current job responsibilities, and eventually utilize the skills during the transition to director of athletics. At Pathway, you are sure to gain first-hand experience with the role of athletics within higher education.

Throughout the year, the NCAA will cover the cost of travel to and from programs, hotel accommodations, meals during the programs and any program materials.

Additionally throughout the program, the Leadership Development department will ensure you as a participant will be paired with a mentor from within the NCAA membership to assist during the year-long opportunity.

The program starts in conjunction with the annual NCAA Convention. The newly-selected class engages with past participants, key individuals in the industry and participates in sessions throughout Convention week, and attends programming geared to prepare you for that first day in the director of athletics’ seat. Over the duration of the program, you will observe the spring and fall governance sessions at the NCAA national office and participate in additional professional development in Boston, Massachusetts. The Pathway Program will then conclude where it began – at the NCAA Convention where there again is the opportunity to engage with the incoming class of participants and your fellow alumni.

Elements included in the Pathway programming will include education, as well as dialogue, on hot-button topics and current issues. Additionally, skill building will take place in the areas of values clarification, leadership, media training, diversity and inclusion, as well as an in-depth look and introduction to search firms and the hiring process within collegiate athletics.


The application for the Pathway Program is currently closed. Please check back in the fall for information regarding the 2015 Pathway Program application process.

Programming Dates

January 12-14, 2015: NCAA Convention (Washington, D.C.)

April TBD: NCAA Governance meetings (Indianapolis, Indiana)

July 20-23, 2015: Pathway programming (Boston, Massachusetts)

October TBD: NCAA Governance meetings (Indianapolis, Indiana)

January 11-13, 2016: NCAA Convention (San Antonio, Texas)


Applicants must currently be a full-time employee at a NCAA membership institution. To be considered, it is preferred that applicants should have a minimum of eight years of combined administrative and/or coaching experience in intercollegiate athletics. Additionally, applicants should be serving in a senior-leadership capacity within their organizational chart at the associate level or above (with consideration given to varying organizational structures).

Eligible applicants will also have experience with staff supervision, as well as experience in at least two of the following areas: sport oversight (revenue sport preferred); development (e.g., associate director of athletics for development, associate director of athletics for annual giving); fiscal and/or budget management (e.g., senior associate director of athletics - chief financial officer, associate director of athletics for business operations, associate director of athletics - finance); coaching (previous or current); senior woman administrator designation; internal operations (e.g., oversight of business, compliance, academics, facilities); and/or external operations (e.g., oversight of marketing/promotions, tickets, media relations, fund-raising).

Preferred candidates for Pathway have been recognized or demonstrate the ability to lead in their current professional role; through an educational association; or through the successful completion of a professional leadership program (e.g. NCAA/NACWAA Leadership Enhancement Institute, NACDA, MOAA, etc.).

Applicants should obtain supervisor approval and endorsement, as well as be able to attend all programming throughout the year.

Contact Us

For more information about the NCAA Pathway Program, please contact Dawn Buth, associate director of leadership development, via email at or by phone at 317-917-6873. 

Key Dates

  • Aug. 28 (Application opens)
  • Sept. 30 (Application closes)
  • Nov. 7 (Participants notified)
  • January 12, 2015 (Program Begins)

“Pathway really enabled me to not only make necessary contacts, but also to know what I needed to do in my first 90 days on the job. I highly recommend the program.”
Vicky Chun
Colgate University
Director of Athletics


“So much of what Pathway offers is beyond the career and is applicable to all facets of life in general.”
Christyn Abaray
Buena Vista (Iowa) University Director of Athletics


“Having access to highly-accomplished industry leaders was a wonderful experience.”
Charles Guthrie
San Francisco State University Director of Athletics