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In His Own Words: Chris Reynolds, Former NCAA Postgraduate Intern

Former basketball player at Indiana interned in legislative services

By Chris Reynolds as told to Kyle C. Leach

In 1996-97, Chris Reynolds was a postgraduate intern at the NCAA and worked in legislative services, now known as academic and membership affairs. A native of Illinois, Reynolds attended Indiana University, Bloomington, where he was a co-captain of the men’s basketball team that advanced to the 1992 Final Four. An academic all-Big Ten selection, Reynolds also holds a law degree and doctorate from Indiana. Now the director of athletics at Bradley University, Reynolds has an extensive background in compliance after holding positions at Western Michigan University, Michigan State University, the University of Notre Dame and Indiana. Most recently, he was the deputy director of athletics at Northwestern University.

The first 14 months at Bradley have been incredible. I'm a native of Peoria, Illinois, so it was coming back home. I grew up six blocks away from the campus of Bradley University. It’s been special to be back home, be near family, but also be a part of an institution I really care about.

My first break into college sports came during law school when I did an internship in the Indiana University athletics department. I had a really good experience after my second year of law school. During that summer, I was able to work with the associate athletics directors in the department and really fell in love with the prospect of working in college athletics.

An NCAA staff member talked with me about applying for the postgraduate internship program. One of the things I really enjoyed about working at the national office at the time – then, it was in Overland Park, Kansas – it gave you a 5,000-foot view of college athletics. There were occasions where athletics directors and conference commissioners would come to the office, and it gave you a great perspective and exposure to athletics administrators across all three divisions.
Having your first experience in athletics as an NCAA intern, but having a great deal of responsibility, helps you to mature as a professional. You are working around other professionals, and they provided invaluable training and instruction at the national office. When I left and went to a campus to work full-time, I was so prepared because I was actually doing the work of a compliance coordinator while an intern at the NCAA.

As a student-athlete, you are leading individuals, individuals that may be in their late teens, early 20s. But when you become a professional, you’re leading adults. Many times you’re leading people older than you, who have been around a lot longer than you. There are certain basic fundamental skills that you need to learn as well, and many intangibles that you have to understand, as it relates to leadership.
My experience as a student-athlete at Indiana was extraordinary. The culture at Indiana University for student-athletes was terrific, and specifically for the men’s basketball program. My basketball coach, Bob Knight, really believed in the student-athlete experience with the word “student” being emphasized. It wasn't about getting a degree or graduating; it was about getting an education.

Coach Knight was an advocate of education, and reading specifically. He emphasized the importance of learning and growing, reading and developing into a well-rounded student-athlete. To be able to see him read every single road trip left an impression upon me. He was a big fan of Tom Clancy, “The Sum of All Fears,” and “The Hunt for Red October.” He read those books all the time, and he would loan us the books. Coach believed that much in reading and wanted to make sure we were doing the same.

One of my most vivid memories as a college athlete was the day we played in the national semifinal. Three hours before the game against Duke Univesity, I was in my hotel room writing a paper – because that’s what we did, we studied on the road. Whether we were playing in the Final Four or playing a nonconference game, the regimen was always the same. A big part of the culture of the basketball program was making academics a high priority.

As an NCAA intern, you weren’t treated like an intern. You were treated just like everybody else in terms of your role and responsibilities. I was there to help interpret NCAA rules across a variety of bylaws. Compliance officers from the membership would reach out to the national office. I’d answer questions that the membership had, just like any other full-time staff employee in legislative services at the NCAA.

While interning at the national office, my advice is to look people in the eye, be very respectful of people’s time, represent yourself in a first-class manner. One of the things that we say at Bradley is “the B shield never comes off,” so you represent not only the institution, but you’re representing yourself, you’re representing your family, every single day.