We are continuing coverage of College AD’s first annual NEXT UP presented by Teamworks. Now in Day 3 of this five-part series, and we’ve got four additional honorees highlight. You can also look back at Day 1 and Day 2 by clicking these links.
As a reminder, NEXT UP are senior level administrators, handpicked by some of the most respected athletic directors in the industry, who are believed to be ready to take the next step as athletic directors in their own right. Out of those nominated by our panel, we selected 21 NEXT UP recipients from across the country to represent this year’s class. The only limiting factor is that none of the nominees could have served as an AD previously, beyond an interim role.
Over five days, June 13th-17th, we are revealing our inaugural honorees.
Out of respect for our seven panel members we are keeping their names anonymous, but we’re more than happy to share a few stats on what qualifies them to spot up-and-coming talent.
Without further ado, here are the next four members of the 2016 class of NEXT UP presented by Teamworks.
STEPHEN PONDER, OLE MISS
Senior Executive Associate AD
Career to Date: Ole Miss (2012- Present); Arizona State- Senior Associate AD (2008- 2012); North Carolina State- Associate AD (1990- 2006)
Appointments & Accomplishments: NAADD Executive Committee, 3rd Vice President; 2012 Disney Institute Participant
Why is he NEXT UP?: I’ll just let Ole Miss AD, Ross Bjork, handle this one. “Stephen Ponder is ready to be a Director of Athletics. In my time working in college athletics, I have never worked with a person of his energy level, enthusiasm for his job, interpersonal skills, and ability to get things done on time and for the right reasons. I believe the best leaders are self-aware of the situation at all times and Stephen has an acute level self-awareness that allows him to thrive for our department and across campus. He is seen as the “go to” person when something needs to get done to continue building our athletics program in the right direction. The best part about Stephen is that he is a great family man, he has an infectious personality, he gets along with everyone, and is an all around terrific person to have on our team. I can’t wait to see what the future holds and where he will end up leading an intercollegiate athletics program. The best is yet to come for Stephen and his family.”
COO / CFO / Senior Associate Athletic Director
Career to Date: USC (1985- Present)
Appointments & Accomplishments: Executive Committee Member & Program Director of the Sports Management Institute
Strengths: Leadership, Fundraising
Why is he NEXT UP?: There’s something to be said for longevity and patience, and Steve Lopes has plenty of it. Starting his career at USC 31 years ago as an assistant strength coach, Lopes worked his way up to the executive level, and was named COO/CFO in 2012. In that time, he helped then USC Athletic Director, Mike McGee, establish the Sports Management Institute, (SMI) a collaborative project between multiple universities that is designed to broaden the knowledge of current sports business professionals. Now serving as Program Director for SMI, Lopes has facilitated the career development of more than 65 sitting athletic directors across the country, all while never officially serving as a head man himself. During USC’s most recent search to replace Pat Haden as AD, Lopes was considered a favorite by many in the industry. His qualifications, connections and history were thought to be ideal for a program that’s become notorious for looking inward to fill leadership roles. While he will no doubt serve an important role under new (and inexperienced) USC AD, Lynn Swann, one has to wonder if this might have been a missed opportunity for the Trojans, and the circumstance that finally causes Lopes to leave Southern California.
Associate Athletics Director and Associate Vice Chancellor
Career to Date: TCU (2011- Present); Leigh Steinberg Sports and Entertainment- General Councel/Director of Special Projects/Player Agent (2007-2011); Arizona- Marketing and Development Associate (2000-2002)
Appointments & Accomplishments: Fort Worth Business Press 40 Under 40 (2014)
Why is he NEXT UP?: Donati took a slightly different path to executive leadership, detouring through the private sector as a certified NFLPA contract advisor and player agent before joining Chris Del Conte’s staff in 2011. Since Donati’s return to collegiate athletics he has played an integral part in helping the Horned Frogs move to the Big 12, raising millions for facility upgrades, and implementing the Frog Club Donor Rewards program. The program which rewards donors who give at a higher level was also designed by Donati. Over the last five years, Donati and his team have raised $45 million to renovate Daniel-Meyer Coliseum and set multiple fundraising records, solidifying his image as a guy who gets things done.
Deputy Director of Athletics
Career to Date: Rutgers (Dec 2013-present); Missouri – Associate AD for Development (2006-2013)
Appointments & Accomplishments: NAADD Executive Committee; Big Ten Sports Management Committee; DI Softball Committee
Why is she NEXT UP?: “Sarah is one of the great young talents in college athletic administration today,” says Rutgers AD, Patrick Hobbs, and you can see why he feels that way with a quick glance at her resume. At both Missouri and Rutgers, Baumgartner was able to develop and implement new fundraising plans and increase donor numbers to unprecedented levels. During Missouri’s transition to the SEC, Baumgartner and her team increased Tiger Scholarship Fund membership by 60 percent, and at Rutgers, added another 2,200 donors to the R FUND. It’s no surprise then that just yesterday she was officially promoted to Deputy Director of Athletics at Rutgers. “She understands the full range of issues facing us and that’s why I’ve asked her to take on the broader role of Deputy AD. She is a tremendous asset to our organization and will be a leader in Athletics for many years.”
Make sure to join us tomorrow for four more NEXT UP honorees, presented by Teamworks.