By Joy Sun & Matt Gwin
March Madness Pt III: NCAA Headquarters and Conferences Careers
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, although it now seems to resemble a professional sports organization with over $1 billion in annual revenue, is at its core a non-profit association of 1,200+ colleges, set up to govern and regulate collegiate athletics. The Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament is just one division of one sport out of the 43 sports and three divisions for which the NCAA awards championship (although it generates 82% of the NCAA’s revenue). More than 500 people work at the NCAA national office. Over a third of their employees are former athletes. Their staff can be separated into several categories.
Logistics and scheduling
While the teams are selected and seeded by the Selection Committee, which is comprised of representatives from member schools’ athletic offices (mostly athletic directors), the bracket layout, schedule, and venue locations are set in advance by NCAA staff. This requires planning ,setting times across four regions to minimize overlap, and coordinating with venues and other stakeholders. A separate travel and insurance department coordinates travel, lodging, and insurance information (no small task with 68 teams and only a couple days notice).
PR and business development
The NCAA has contracts with ESPN, CBS, Turner Broadcasting, Westwood One, and DirecTV to broadcast their various championships. They also have many official sponsors and partners. The Business Development office (along with the legal team) work on building these mutually beneficial relationships and maximizing the return for the NCAA. The PR office speaks on behalf of the NCAA and works to maintain and improve its reputation in the public eye.
Compliance and investigations
The NCAA has tons of rules and regulations regarding recruiting, player benefits, and academic eligibility. Personnel in this office provide guidance and clarity to schools and athletes and investigate reported infractions.
One example NCAA investigator is Joyce Thompson-Mills. Thompson-Mills is the Associate Director of Enforcent. Prior to joining the NCAA, she was a lawyer in state government. As an investigator, it is Joyce’s job to present cases where college programs or players violated NCAA rules and guidelines, as well as to help ensure compliance from all programs.
Each of the athletic conferences (Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12, etc) has similar roles and functions as the NCAA. They, too, coordinate scheduling, put on conference championship tournaments, operate public relations, marketing, compliance among members, and in some cases, operate their own television networks.
NEXT: March Madness Careers Part I: College Athletic Department Careers and Part II: Sports Broadcasting Careers