Visionary sports executive takes the helm as next Vanderbilt athletics director

Video by Zack Eagles

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos today named Malcolm Turner, a proven and highly accomplished sports business executive with a passion for the transformative power of education, as the university’s new vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletics director. Turner, a member of the NBA’s senior leadership team and president of the NBA G League, will join the university on Feb. 1, 2019.

Malcolm Turner

“I set out to find a thought leader with the skill set and vision to manage the next stage of transformation for Vanderbilt Athletics, and that’s exactly what we found in Malcolm Turner,” Zeppos said. “Malcolm is a proven executive with deep expertise in multiple business disciplines including management, marketing and development across the sports landscape of teams, leagues, facilities and major events. He also carries a deep and personal commitment to education, evidenced by his own academic achievements and his extensive community service. His exceptional skills, combined with his passion for education and drive for excellence, will bring immense value not only to the Vanderbilt Commodores, but to the rest of the university and to the entire Nashville community.”

Vanderbilt interviewed a number of highly accomplished candidates and ultimately decided Turner was the right fit to carry on Vanderbilt’s athletics program.

“The level of interest in this role from a superb and diverse set of candidates was nothing short of remarkable,” noted Zeppos. “This was a testament to what I believe is an inspiring and distinctive approach to the student athlete experience that I call ‘the Vanderbilt Way’ – a deep commitment to the comprehensive development of student athletes to excel on the field of play, academically and in life.”

Zeppos said Turner is the right leader to take the university’s commitment to student-athletes to the next level and achieve success on and off the field. “Malcolm is a problem solver with a unique ability to bring people together around a common vision,” he added. “I am confident that he will have an immediate and profound impact on the Commodores’ success as an elite athletics program by building new relationships and new sources of revenue, while recruiting and retaining extraordinarily talented coaches, students and staff.”

“I am honored to join such a storied university with a historic commitment to excellence in everything it does,” Turner said. “Vanderbilt University and the city of Nashville are on the move, and I’m excited to be a part of that transformation and help position the Commodores and Vanderbilt’s unique approach to developing student-athletes as a national and international model. I look forward to supporting and partnering with our student-athletes, coaches, facility managers, staff and the entire Commodores community to help attain and provide the resources for our teams to succeed.”

Turner graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and went on to earn joint J.D./.M.B.A. degrees from Harvard University.

Turner is also an accomplished community leader, having served on the advisory boards for Teach for America, the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, the UNC Board of Visitors and the board of the Morehead-Cain Scholarship Fund.

As a student at UNC Chapel Hill, Turner was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist, Morehead-Cain Scholar and recipient of the Ernest L. Mackie Chancellor’s Award for character, scholarship and leadership.

Turner’s tenure as president of the NBA G League is hallmarked by growth, expansion and transformation.

Under Turner’s leadership, the NBA G League has enjoyed unprecedented growth across all areas of its business and basketball operations — from record numbers of NBA G League alumni in the NBA, to a first-of-its-kind expanded entitlement partnership with Gatorade, to innovative new player contract types. A champion for NBA Two-Way Contracts (newly incorporated in the NBA’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement) and NBA G League Select Contracts (newly announced as part of the G League’s recently launched professional path), Turner’s vision deepened the league’s commitment to player development.

Turner’s commitment to development also has extended to coaches, with more than 50 coaches ascending from the NBA G League to NBA team benches during his tenure.

Through strategic partnerships with NBA teams, 10 new clubs joined the league, all of the NBA G League’s record 27 teams now enjoy single-affiliation with NBA parent clubs, and roughly one-third of the league’s teams are playing in, or currently constructing, new facilities. By any measure, the NBA G League has undergone an expansive transformation and today stands as a thriving and integral strategic asset that is creating tangible value throughout the NBA system. The NBA G League prepares players, coaches, referees, trainers and front office staff for the NBA while also serving as the league’s research and development laboratory to test experimental playing rules, new technologies and emerging partner initiatives for potential application by the NBA.

“Malcolm was a unique candidate and is a perfect fit for taking Vanderbilt Athletics forward,” said Vanderbilt University Board of Trust member John R. Ingram. Ingram served on the search committee and also chairs the board’s Athletics Committee. “I’m excited to assist and support Malcolm as we write this next chapter in Commodores history.”

Prior to joining the NBA, Turner worked at Wasserman Media Group, where he helped build the firm’s preeminent Consulting Division as its managing director, creating and managing sports, entertainment, venue and new product launch strategies for leading corporate brands and properties. He went on to help build a multinational footprint for this practice before launching Wasserman’s Golf Division as one of the leading golf management teams representing some of the game’s top personalities and brands. Prior to Wasserman, he served as senior vice president and a member of the leadership team of OnSport, a North Carolina-based sports and entertainment consulting firm (later acquired by Wasserman) that managed strategic initiatives for Fortune 100 brands across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NASCAR, Madison Square Garden, STAPLES Center and other marquee properties. The firm also represented the media rights for prominent rightsholders in the professional and college sports landscape.

Turner’s selection concludes a process that began in September with Zeppos seeking and gathering input from coaches, students, alumni, faculty, staff and the Commodores larger fan base about Vanderbilt Athletics and what is needed to continue the program’s success.

An advisory council comprised of Vanderbilt students, faculty, staff and alumni also informed the search, serving as a resource for the chancellor in identifying the qualities and important responsibilities of the athletics director.

The formal search committee, armed with this wide-ranging input and supported by executive search firm Korn Ferry’s Jed Hughes and Kyle Bowlsby, was chaired by Zeppos and included Vanderbilt Board of Trust Chairman Bruce Evans, Ingram, Vanderbilt School of Medicine Associate Dean of Alumni Affairs and alumna Ann Price, a former Commodores standout in singles and doubles tennis, and YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee Vice President for External Affairs and alumnus Shan Foster, one of the most decorated basketball players in Vanderbilt history.

“Malcolm takes on a Commodores athletics program that has enjoyed unprecedented success academically and athletically under David Williams’ leadership — and he’s the right person to build upon David’s trailblazing career and legacy at the university,” Zeppos said.

During current Vice Chancellor for Athletics and University Affairs and Athletics Director Williams’ tenure, the Commodores have won four national championships — in women’s bowling, baseball and women’s tennis. Vanderbilt has also won more than 19 league titles and tournaments, including the men’s golf and women’s tennis Southeastern Conference championships and the Southland Conference Bowling Championship. The Vanderbilt football team will play in its sixth bowl game in the last 10 years later this month, breaking a 26-year drought in 2008. The women’s soccer team recently also added to the program’s success by taking home the SEC regular season championship in October.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to follow in David Williams’ footsteps – he’s set a high bar for what a top-notch athletics program can accomplish and has built a foundation of success and excellence for the Commodores,” Turner said.

Academically, Vanderbilt student-athletes have earned over a cumulative 3.0 GPA every year for the past 13 years. In the NCAA’s recently released Academic Progress Rates (APR) for the 2016-17 academic year, a total of 11 Commodore athletic programs finished with perfect 1,000 APR scores, and Vanderbilt football finished No. 2 in the nation.


Sports Industry Executives on Malcolm Turner:

“Malcolm is an exceptionally talented executive and an all-around great person. The NBA benefited tremendously from his leadership, acumen, and collaborative mindset – he’s one of a kind. He expanded the NBA’s development league in unprecedented ways to form the successful G League, and enhanced the league’s commitment to player, coach and staff development. I have no doubt he will bring that same commitment to excellence and impact to Vanderbilt’s Athletics Program.” – David Stern, NBA Commissioner Emeritus

“Malcolm deftly oversaw a pivotal period of expansion and transition. We thank Malcolm for his lasting contributions to the NBA and the NBA G League and wish him the best at Vanderbilt.” – Mark Tatum, NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer

“Malcolm is the consummate executive, having mastered the attributes of leadership – competence, confidence and compassion. His competence is displayed in his mastery of sports – one of only two international languages. His confidence in his teams is second only to the compassion he demonstrates when working with others.” – Lisa Borders, President and Chief Executive Officer of Time’s Up, former WNBA President

“Malcolm is one of the smartest, most selfless leaders I’ve worked with. His knowledge of the various aspects of sport is matched by his passion for the foundational spirit of competition that fuels the industry. Your student-athletes are lucky to have him championing their pursuits and guiding their collegiate athletics experiences.” – Sarah Hirshland, Chief Executive Officer for the United States Olympic Committee

“Malcolm’s academic pedigree coupled with his deep experience and understanding of all things related to the sports industry make him uniquely qualified for this new role. He will be a fantastic representative for Vanderbilt University and will quickly become one of the most strategic thought leaders in college athletics.” – Gary Stevenson, President and Managing Director of Major League Soccer 

“Malcolm Turner brings passion, intellect and a love of sport to his job and the community at large. Vanderbilt University – its student population and athletic program are lucky to have such a genuine leader and talent join its ranks. We wish him all the best and look forward to working with him in his new role.” – Casey Wasserman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Wasserman, and Chairman of Los Angeles 2028

“On behalf of the PGA TOUR, I would like to extend our sincerest congratulations to Malcolm and Vanderbilt University on his appointment as Athletic Director.

“We know he will do a terrific job and provide the tremendous leadership he has displayed throughout his professional career. The TOUR first became aware of Malcolm’s talent and potential when he was part of the inaugural PGA TOUR Diversity Internship program in 1992 then moved into a fulltime tournament official role at the TOUR, and we’re proud that we were able to play a small role in getting his career in sports started.

“Throughout his career, Malcolm played an integral role with many TOUR sponsors. Those who had the opportunity to work with him are not surprised by the success he has enjoyed, and we appreciate the fact that he has remained a strong advocate of our organization and internship program. Along with Vanderbilt alumni Brandt Snedeker and Luke List who are members of the PGA TOUR, we will be rooting for the Commodores and Malcolm’s continued success.” – Jay Monahan, PGA TOUR Commissioner

“Malcolm embodies the true spirit of teamwork – he’s been an incredible partner and collaborator throughout our unprecedented partnership with the G League as an entitlement partner. Through this relationship, I have been able to witness first hand Malcolm’s role in the G League’s record growth and the ever expanding opportunities the League is creating for those who wish to pursue a career in the NBA. Malcolm’s efforts have really put this League on a wonderful growth trajectory and we are thrilled to be a part of it. I know he will bring the same drive and innovation to another partner we are extremely proud of – Vanderbilt University.” – Brett O’Brien, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Gatorade


The Commodores Community on Malcolm Turner:

“Finding someone who would respect and further Vanderbilt’s mission of helping students achieve success, regardless of the arena, was a priority. As a former Vanderbilt scholarship student, I know the transformative power this university can have, and it was important to me to find someone who shares this vision. As we weighed the many wonderful candidates we interviewed, it became apparent that Malcolm was who we were looking for. He will lead with an agenda to advance the well-being, education and success of student athletes who have made the choice to come to Vanderbilt where they can pursue excellence in the classroom and in the toughest conference in the country. His previous experience as one of the country’s top professional sports industry executives will serve us well.”– Bruce Evans, Chairman, Vanderbilt University Board of Trust

“Malcolm is the real deal. His experience at the highest levels of the sports industry will be an incredible asset to the Commodores. I think his extensive background in marketing, management and development, coupled with his operational know-how, will translate well to college athletics and he’ll be able to have a big impact on our program out of the gates. I look forward to partnering with him to build on our successes and history of excellence, and to continue to develop our students as top-notch athletes and successful leaders.” – Coach Derek Mason, Vanderbilt Head Football Coach

“We interviewed amazing candidates, but Malcolm’s commitment to excellence in education and player development resonated with me and set him apart from others. He was a standout candidate, and is exactly what the Commodores need to continue a culture of success in the classroom and on the field.” – Shan Foster, YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee Vice President for External Affairs, former NBA and developmental league player, and one of the most decorated athletes in Vanderbilt history

“This is very exciting for the Vanderbilt family. It was critical for us to find a leader who not only understood every facet of college athletics, but who also understood the rigors of our very competitive academic environment. We are asking a lot of our student-athletes when we expect them to be competitive at the highest levels both academically and athletically. Malcom understands and embraces that dynamic. He is someone who will truly invest in Vanderbilt and help our student athletes achieve at their highest potential—academically, athletically, and in life.” – Ann Price, Vanderbilt School of Medicine Associate Dean of Alumni Affairs, former Commodores standout in singles and doubles tennis

“This is a big deal. Malcolm is poised to take Vanderbilt Athletics to the next level of success and excellence. As an alumnus and an avid supporter of Vanderbilt and Vanderbilt Athletics, I am truly excited about this hire. Malcolm has a fantastic reputation in the sports industry and I cannot wait to see how he leverages his experience and leadership skills on behalf of the Commodores.” – Lawrence Epstein, Chief Operating Officer, The Ultimate Fighting Championship, and Vanderbilt alumnus