Why Vandy Named an AD with No College Experience

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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)


Vanderbilt went outside the box to find its new athletics director.

Malcolm Turner, the president of the developmental NBA G League, was hired Tuesday as Vanderbilt's AD and vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs. He will start on Feb. 1 and replace David Williams, who announced his resignation Sept. 11, after leading the athletics department since 2003.

Turner has no college administrative experience. Instead, his résumé is steeped in marketing, consulting and management in just about every major professional sports league. He has worked with the NBA, WNBA, NFL, NASCAR and PGA in multiple roles.

What Vanderbilt saw in Malcolm Turner

So why did Vanderbilt choose Turner over other traditional candidates like experienced college ADs?

Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos said Turner "from the start, stood out as the top candidate." Zeppos thought his business background and talent for executing a strategic plan for growth were universal abilities Vanderbilt could not pass up.

"If you look back and say, 'What was (college athletics) like in 2002, and what is it like today?' I don't think anyone could've imagined or predicted (the differences)," Zeppos said. "So what I really wanted was somebody who could, as we say, skate to where the puck is going.

"The business background was very important to me. But the strategic thinking and ability to say, 'This is where this should be going,' was very, very important to me."

What Turner plans to do at Vanderbilt

During a half-hour teleconference with reporters Tuesday, Turner was modest about his learning curve ahead in college athletics.

He repeatedly referenced his plan for a "listening and learning tour." He wants to get feedback from athletes, coaches, fans and university staff on what they think is needed most for Vanderbilt athletics.

"I'm looking forward to learning the history to date and lending my experience and my lens on the future there," Turner said.

But Turner also identified the expertise that Zeppos saw in him. Turner said he is confident in his ability to transition into college athletics and juggle the unique challenges at Vanderbilt.

"I hearken back on my consulting background," Turner said. "I've always been a continuous learner. You have to be able to dig in and out of issues quickly and precisely."

Vanderbilt touts a reputation as an elite academic institution, and Nashville is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. However, Turner must balance academics and athletics while figuring out how to renovate the football stadium, raise revenue in a competitive sports market and compete in the SEC.

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December 12, 2018


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