“We focus on shaping the rule college sports, taking the pulse of ADs and making an imprint on the programs and NCAA” – Tom McMillen, LEAD1 President.
Tom McMillen has had an interesting road to LEAD1, after playing in the NBA for 11 years and serving as a member of Congress, he was tapped to head an organization advocating for the future of college athletics.
And it’s a big job.
LEAD1 represents the athletics directors and programs of the 130-member universities of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). LEAD1 believes in looking to the future of college sports by supporting ADs around the country with education and member services uniquely tailored to their jobs.
“We run an annual institute that provides peer-to-peer development programs for young aspiring ADs. We do a salary survey every year; we do webinars on lots of subjects like sports betting and independent medical care. We do a lot to impart information and education and recently launched our air charter program.”
LEAD1 recently partnered with Private Jet Services to start a charter purchasing program that will secure air transportation from licensed air carriers and offer participating schools a fixed hourly rate. McMillen says this grew out of an initiative by LEAD1 to see how they could help their schools.
“Our schools spent $200 million a year on air travel by trying to buy in bulk. Not only are there tremendous savings financially, but it improves safety and has other benefits,” explains McMillen.
He tells CollegeAD they spent a year and a half looking at the issue and saw a great need among their member institutions.
“We are talking to schools about all of their sports using this system — football, basketball,” says McMillen. “We’ve been getting a tremendous response from the schools. We hope over the next 2 or 3 years to build a strong collective purchasing effort.”
In addition to the recent launch of the air charter program, LEAD1 is busy looking at other services for their members. One upcoming project is in the realm of accountability for athletic directors.
“We are launching a Sports Supervision Module. You have thousands of sports across the FBS, yet you may have someone in charge of an Olympic team, for instance, who has little experience in that area. We are developing a ‘How To’ manual for schools to use as a template to help people who are maybe a little less familiar.”
LEAD1 is also keeping an eye on how college sports is viewed in the public eye. One large issue: college sports betting. McMillen has mixed feelings when it comes to the new rule allowing bets on college sports.
“I believe, unless resources are devoted to this area, it’s a very high-risk endeavor,” he explained. “I do think states should be allocating resources to their universities and athletic departments. We need to go the extra mile to protect these kids who are more vulnerable than pro athletes.”
He says LEAD1 has given out information to its members on how to keep sports betting safe and how athletic departments can educate themselves, student-athletes and campus communities on sports betting as the practice becomes more widespread.