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NCAA Pathway Program

Key Dates
  • Feb. 8, 2021: Application Opens (8:00 a.m. Eastern Time)
  • Mar. 15, 2021: Application Closes (5:00 p.m. Eastern Time)
  • June 2021: 1st meeting dates (Virtual)
  • Fall 2021: In-person meeting dates (Indianapolis, IN)
  • Winter/Spring 2022: Program site visits (Locations TBD)
  • Summer 2022: Graduation Reception (NACDA Convention)

The Pathway Program is designed to elevate senior-level athletics administrators to the next step as directors of athletics or conference commissioners. This yearlong program is an intensive, experiential learning opportunity for selected participants who work at an NCAA school or conference in any division.

Since its inception in 1997, the Pathway Program (formerly the Fellows Program) has produced more than 100 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.

What You’ll Learn

During the yearlong program, you will identify how values fit into your philosophy and execution of leadership within college athletics and higher education. You also develop knowledge in areas such as budgeting, strategic planning and fundraising for both your current job responsibilities and while you transition to the role of director of athletics.

The Pathway Program kicks off for all divisions during a weeklong session virtually with prominent guests, dedicated consultants, and an engaging curriculum. Throughout the year, program dates and locations will then cater to each division’s needs, such as participating in governance meetings and media and interview training. Skill building will take place in the areas of values clarification, leadership, media training, diversity and inclusion, and you will get an in-depth look and introduction to search firms and the hiring process within college athletics.

In addition to the in-person programming throughout the year, you will be paired with both a presidential and director of athletics mentor to assist you in navigating the year.

To wrap up the year, all participants come together and are recognized at the annual NACDA convention luncheon.

The NCAA will cover the cost of travel to and from all in-person programming, including hotel accommodations, meals during the programs and any program materials.

Who is Eligible

Applicants must be full-time employees at a NCAA member school or conference office and must have supervisor approval.

Preference will be given to applicants who meet as many of the following qualifications as possible:

  • Have at least eight years of combined administrative and coaching experience in college sports.
  • Serve in a senior leadership role within their current organizational chart.
  • Experience with staff supervision, sport oversight, development, budget management, coaching, internal operations or external operations.
  • Be a senior woman administrator.
  • Demonstrated ability to lead in their current professional role, either through an educational association or through successful completion of a professional leadership program. Examples of qualifying leadership programs include NCAA/Women Leaders Leadership Enhancement Institute and those offered through the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and the Minority Opportunities Athletics Association.

How to Apply

To be considered for the Pathway Program for any division, your current athletics director or conference commissioner must nominate you through the NCAA Program Hub. Nominees will be immediately notified of their nomination and must then complete the online application by the designated deadline.


For information about the Pathway Program, email

DI participants in Pathway Program conduct first meeting

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.

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“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
Vice President, 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
Lawrence University
Director of Athletics


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