Ed. Note: Torchbearers is a College AD series profiling female leaders in college athletics. Torchbearers is presented by SM2. SM2 is committed to positively impacting the culture of social networking users in athletics, SM2 provides the only foundational education programs customized for global sports brands.
Maritza Jones, a lawyer by trait, has risen through the ranks of the NCAA to her current position as the Director of Division II. Jones is in her third year as the Director of Division II, and reminded College AD that every once in awhile, you have have to take some chances.
On Her Journey
“I have kind of a unconventional background. I was born and raised in Venezuela, and I went to law school. My dad was an attorney, and that’s all I knew I was going to be, and I absolutely loved studying law. My dad also owned a professional basketball team. I moved to the U.S. to pursue my masters in international law and business, and my whole idea was to go back and work in law, and as much as I enjoyed going to law school, I did not like practicing law. I met my husband in law school, and he always knew that he wanted to work in college athletics. He was working at the NCAA at the time and we moved here. I was looking for a career change, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. That was the time when the eligibility center was being created along with the amateur certification, so it was kind of being in the right place at the right time.
“They were looking for someone who had some international background in sports and analytical skills. It was a perfect fit from the moment that I started working on the amateurism certification for a couple of years. Then I transitioned to working with Division II, and I’ve been working with Division II for nine years, so it’s been really rewarding. I really found my passion in working in college athletics, especially at the Division II level.”
On Career Challenges
“I’ve always seen our job at the national office as support to the membership. For me, it’s all about how we can serve all 309 institutions in Division II the best way we can. So, listening to their needs, listening to what we can do at the national level to help the division as a whole, and trying to make the best decision for our thousands of student athletes across the division.
“In Division II, we’re very proud of following our strategic plan. There’s five goals in our strategic plan, and I would say that every decision we make on the national level really goes back to one of those strategic goals.
“The challenges that we face while working for the NCAA are all of the lawsuits and the scrutiny into college athletics. We’re a little further removed in Division II, but it effects us one way or another in terms of how we’re viewed or portrayed by the media.
“In terms of personal challenges, my husband and I are both career driven, and along the way we have both had to make sacrifices for each other’s career. At the end of the day, we are both always happy to support each other, and you learn that you can both have aspirations, goals, and grow in your career but also have a healthy marriage and family.”
On The Mentors Who’ve Guided Her
“My husband, Jay Jones, introduced me to college athletics, and without a doubt he’s not only my husband but also the biggest mentor I have in the industry. He’s supported me all the way through every decision I’ve made while working in college athletics, guided me through how to approach different scenarios. So without a doubt he’s my biggest supporter. We moved away for four years while he took a commissioner job in Florida, and this position opened up as the director of Division II, and he was the first one to give me a call and he said ‘You have to go for this position, and I’ll support you all the way through, and we’ll move back to Indianapolis if you get it.’ So he’s not only a mentor but also a supporter.
“As far as people I work with, my former supervisor Stephanie Quigg Smith; I went to work for her 9 years ago, and she mentored me as I started in a world that I really didn’t know much about and has guided me through the years. Obviously, my current supervisor Terri Steeb Gronau who continues to mentor me day to day who supports me in this position. She had this position for ten years before taking the vice president role and couldn’t be any better as a supervisor, as a mentor who encourages me to try new things and giving me the opportunity to be a leader. Those are the people I look up to or turn to when I have questions or want to run ideas by.”
On Advice For Aspiring Professionals
“Don’t be afraid to take chances. I definitely took a chance when I changed my career at almost thirty years old for something that I had no real experience in, but I really found that passion by doing it. Don’t be afraid to take chances by moving into something that might be rewarding to you. Don’t be afraid to seek those people who are willing to help, support, mentor, guide you, and help you up if you don’t make the right decision.”