Jeff Konya’s First 90 Days As The Director of Athletics At Northeastern University

May 16th, 2018 | by Dan Gale
Jeff Konya’s First 90 Days As The Director of Athletics At Northeastern University
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Jeff Konya

On January 10, 2018, Northeastern University introduced Jeff Konya as the Huskies new director of athletics and recreation. Konya has hit the ground running since taking over for Peter Roby who retired after more than a decade at Northeastern. Dan Gale recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jeff Konya and discuss his first 90 days in office. Konya shared what drew him to Boston and Northeastern, how he prepared to for the job as well as what’s in store for Northeastern.

Dan Gale: Tell us about your first 90 days in office. Have there been any surprises or any major accomplishments that you’d like to share?

Jeff Konya: It’s been tremendous, I’m working with the senior leadership team here at Northeastern on a vision and a strategic outline for this department moving forward. It’s taken a lot of great conversations and vetting in order to drill down the vision for the organization. We created five focus groups based off of a servant leadership model focussing on the key areas of Facilities, Marketing and Branding, Game Day Experience, Student Recognition, and Revenue Generation.

On the accomplishment side, we signed a brand new apparel deal with Under Armour that was transformative in bringing all of our teams under one brand. Additionally, we did a little bit of internal restructuring so we could better accommodate the strategic vision and goals that we want to accomplish. We have a directive to be bold, to be brash, to be relevant, and we have a license to go for it!

DG: You’ve been an AD now for the third time, what did you do in preparation before day one that could help other AD’s that are announced and then have a few weeks or months before getting into the chair?

JK: Honestly, it’s to be a sponge and to start creating relationships with all the key stakeholders, especially internal, within your athletic department as soon as possible.

As you’re walking in you don’t have all the answers because you don’t know the culture that’s been there before. The resident experts are the people that are on the ground. What I’ve chosen to do the last few stops is to have a brainstorming exercise with all of the key constituents and even before day one do a SWOT analysis so that everybody can have and see what the collective mindset and thought process is of all their peers and everybody within the organization.

From there I think it’s important that everybody has a stake in creating and charting the future. If you can get the buy-in on the front in it’s going to yield better results.

DG: Because of your background, sitting as an AD for over ten years now, why Northeastern and why now? What made it so attractive for you?

JK: The university in terms of their academics and the metrics is unprecedented. Northeastern has a really remarkable infrastructure for academics and higher education with the Co-op Program, it’s world-renowned and it’s a difference maker.

I think in terms of what Northeastern was looking for was a nice fit for my skill set. The foundation that Peter Roby had established from an academics and student development model is fantastic and provided a great foundation with which to build and lead from. I think there is an appetite at the university to have athletics match the ascension of the broader University. In order to do that, some of the principles around marketing, branding, external relations and fundraising came to the forefront.

We already have Mathews Arena enhancement project slated for this summer that is going to be a game changer! These kind of things are going to be tangible to show athletics is here to match the reputation and the ascension of the broader university. I think those type of plans speaks to how dynamic this place is and that’s what spoke to me.

Jeff Konya Matthews Arena

DG: You mentioned upgrades to Matthews Arena, can you speak more to that and anything else that is on the horizon for Northeastern after your first 90 days?

JK: This was interesting to me, Matthews Arena was erected two years before the Titanic sunk, and so it’s a historic relic of a generation. The recruits that come in and see the history and are blown away. What we’re trying to do is become retro-cool. We plan to add modern amenities and infrastructure so that we can create a game day environment that’s going to blend with the historic essence of Matthews Arena to become something that I don’t think you can replicate in many places if at all anywhere else in the country.

Additionally, we’re looking at redoing all of our systems from our ticketing, external operations, multimedia rights, everything is on the board right now for discussion and enhancement. But from a facilities standpoint and optics standpoint, we have a strong brand, we have a video production team with our internal Howlin Huskies productions that is second to none and something that we can leverage in the marketplace.

DG: Success seems to follow you at each of your stops in the Athletic Director chair. What’s your secret?

JK: (Laughing) I’m not sharing that, I want to keep that to myself! The secret is really wrapped around trying to build a culture of allowing people to be successful. It’s about treating your head coaches with respect as a CEO and allowing them certain levels of autonomy. It’s about empowering your student-athletes so they can become the best in terms of their academics and their athletics. I really believe that the role of central administration in athletics is to provide the infrastructure for success. It’s working and having dialog and drilling down with your coaches and student-athletes transparent dialog to figure out what tactics will put everyone in the best position to be successful!

Dan Gale About Dan Gale
Dan Gale has been working in and around college athletics for the past 15 years. He has worked in fundraising and operations at the University of North Carolina, Temple University and East Stroudsburg University. He spent the bulk of his career at CBS Collegiate Sports Properties in leadership roles at the United States Air Force Academy, Old Dominion University, Towson University and University of Maryland. Upon leaving college athletics, he spent four years in the private sector building companies focusing with college athletics in the areas of technology and secondary ticket sales. He is currently the President of Leona Marketing Group, helping athletic departments formulate their revenue generation strategies and negotiating their multimedia rights.

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