Vanderbilt expands David Williams’ role in athletics

Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos (right) named David Williams vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletics director during a press conference July 12. (Joe Howell/Vanderbilt)
Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos (right) named David Williams vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletics director during a press conference July 12. (Joe Howell/Vanderbilt)

The executive who guided Vanderbilt athletics to new heights has officially been named the university’s athletic director, Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos announced.

David Williams’ new title is vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletics director. He will no longer have the additional roles of general counsel and university secretary at Vanderbilt.

“This will allow me to get to spend one-on-one time with our student-athletes and get to know them better,” Williams said. “I’ll be able to do a better job at understanding what their hopes and dreams are and maybe help them get there.”

The announcement was made July 12 at Vanderbilt’s Student Life Center to members of the press.

“[rquote]Vanderbilt’s profile in athletics has gone to new levels,” Zeppos said. “David has been at my side for 12 years as an incredible partner and leader.”[/rquote]

Williams took the helm of Vanderbilt athletics after former chancellor Gordon Gee restructured the athletics program in 2003. As vice chancellor, Williams has had the charge to ensure that all aspects of student athletes’ experience at Vanderbilt are integrated with that of non-athletes.

The model has been successful. Under Williams’ tenure, Vanderbilt won the SEC tournament and regular season baseball championships and made its first appearance in the College World Series. Vanderbilt captured its first national championship (in women’s bowling), went to two bowl games after a 26-year drought, saw the women’s basketball team compete in the NCAA tournament every year and sent the men’s basketball team into postseason play, advancing as far as the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament. In 2012, the men’s basketball team won its first SEC tournament championship in 61 years. The women’s cross country team won its first SEC championship in fall 2011.

The university is also increasingly hosting postseason play – including the first and second rounds of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, two NCAA baseball regionals and one NCAA baseball super regional, and the 2012 NCAA women’s golf championship, which was the first time Vanderbilt has hosted a national championship.

Student athletes are traveling overseas in study abroad programs for the first time ever, and with their athletic teams. For instance, the baseball team traveled to Japan and Hong Kong and the men’s and women’s tennis teams visited South Africa.

Student athletes have an average GPA of more than 3.0, one of the highest graduation rates in the NCAA, and are living, learning and participating in activities with other Vanderbilt students.

“[lquote]I have heard the comments that Vanderbilt needs a full-time leader in athletics,” Williams said. “I’ve taken that to heart. … The real test is what we can do in the future.”[/lquote]

Zeppos noted that Williams has played an increasing role in collegiate athletics with his service on a number of NCAA panels. Williams is a member of the Division I Academic Cabinet, which reviews all measures dealing with academics before they are passed on to the Board of Directors; is chairman of the five-person Infractions Appeals Committee, which is responsible for hearing all appeals for NCAA violations and makes the final decisions regarding the appeals; and is a member of the working group on enforcement, which is planning the adoption of an expanded, four-level violation structure for infractions as part of NCAA President Mark Emmert’s intercollegiate reform effort.

Williams is also a member of the SEC team responsible for negotiating national television contracts for the conference.

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said, “I am pleased to learn David will be devoting all of his time to his role as athletics director. David is extremely talented. The conference office and David’s athletics director colleagues will all benefit even more in the future than we have in the past.”

A native of Detroit, Williams is a graduate of Northern Michigan University, where he was a member of the track team. He also earned a Master of Business Administration and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Detroit and an L.L.M. in taxation from New York University. Before entering law school, Williams spent 10 years as a teacher and coach in the Detroit public school system.

Currently, Williams is spearheading a project that re-imagines sports and fitness at Vanderbilt moving toward the trend on many college campuses of combined recreation facilities that serve students, faculty and staff. The project will involve enhancing the existing Student Recreation Center and making it open to the entire Vanderbilt community as well as the construction of a multipurpose facility near the intramural fields alongside the recreation center.

The multipurpose facility will include an indoor practice field that can be used for varsity football, soccer and lacrosse as well as intramural and club sports teams. An indoor track – open for use by the university’s athletic teams and students, faculty and staff – also will be part of the multipurpose facility.

Vanderbilt will conduct a national search for a new general counsel to be led by Brett Sweet, vice chancellor and chief financial officer. Williams will serve as general counsel until his successor is named.