Women Leaders in  Sports, in Partnership with the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU, Announce 2023 NCAA Division I, II and III Athletic Director Research Findings


September 17, 2023

Mandy Marks
Women Leaders in  Sports
[email protected]

Eliza Robinson
Arizona State University
[email protected]

Kansas City, Mo.— Women Leaders in Sports (Women Leaders), in collaboration with Distinguished Professor of Practice, Glenn Wong, and Associate Teaching professor, Stephanie Jarvis, from the Allan “Bud” Selig Master of Sports Law and Business program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University (ASU Law), are excited to make public their updated research findings on the career trajectory of NCAA Division I, Division II and Division III athletic directors. 

Women Leaders began this partnership with ASU Law in 2017 to better understand the hiring trends and career characteristics of men and women administrators who are hired to athletic director jobs, across all NCAA Divisions. Specifically, both parties aimed to learn more about the paths, education and experience levels attributed to those hires before they landed the designated position of athletic director.
"We are happy to see some significant increases in the hiring of female AD’s in DII and DIII, while the percentage of minority female hires went up in DI.” says Patti Phillips, CEO of Women Leaders in Sports. “These increases are important steps in the right direction, although there is still work to be done. The information in this report provides us with the insights to help prepare and position our women leaders members for advancement.” 

The Allan “Bud” Selig Sports Law and Business Program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University is honored and privileged to have the opportunity to share its research with Women Leaders in Sports. “We are pleased this information is useful to Presidents as they make hiring decisions and look to create diverse candidate pools. We know it also provides aspiring Athletic Directors helpful guidance as they make educational and professional decisions to increase their potential for leadership positions in College Athletics”, says Wong and Jarvis.
The data used in this research was strictly compiled from public data and reflects only readily available information from each institution’s website and additional online resources. Wong and his team navigated hundreds of websites to collect information on all current athletic directors at every Division. The data gathering process was completed in April, 2023 and is reflective of all athletic directors to that date. Any changes to personnel in those roles after that date will be recorded in next year’s report. 

The following research update (2023) provides reporting on trends across all three NCAA divisions. Women Leaders in Sports continues to use this information to supplement its existing leadership institute curriculum and provide members key insights on career experience to best position themselves for future advancement. 
Summary of Updated Hiring Trends for Athletic Directors:  

Division I Trends 

  • The number of female Division I ADs decreased from 53 to 50 in the last year.
  • There are two more African-American DI athletic directors this year compared to last year. 
  • Over the past year, the number of Asian DI athletic directors increased by one and the number of Hispanic/Latino DI athletic directors decreased by one. 
  • Minority representation increased overall by 0.6% in 2023 while female minority representation increased by 0.8%. 
  • Athletic fundraising remained the most common track for Division I ADs to their current role. 
  • Over 90% DI athletic directors hold a graduate degree, an increase of 2.8% from last year. 
  • Since last year’s report, the number of DI athletic directors with master’s degrees decreased by 13 and ones with an MBA decreased by 1. 
  • The number of DI athletic directors with a JD increased by 2 and the number that held a PhD/EdD increased by 3.
  • DI athletic directors with coaching experience slightly decreased from 25.2% in 2022 to 24.6% in 2023. There was a 2.2% decrease in the number of Division I athletic directors with collegiate student-athlete experience from 2022 to 2023. 
  • There were 60 newly hired Division I athletic directors in 2022 while in 2023 only saw 41 new hires. 
  • The race and ethnicity breakdown of power 5 athletic directors saw no change from last year's report. Thus power 5 minority and female minority representation remained the same. 
  • The number of power 5 ADs with a graduate degree increased 3.1% from last year.
  • 66.7% of newly hired DI ADs last year were White (non-Hispanic) while in 2023, 73.2% of newly hired DI ADs were White (non-Hispanic). 
  • The number of hired DI athletic directors with graduate degrees increased by 11.8% from 2022. 
  • In 2023, 51.2% of newly hired DI athletic directors were collegiate student-athletes, a great decrease from the 68.3% in 2022.

Division II Trends  

  • The percentage of newly hired female ADs went up from 24.6% in 2022 to 37.5% in 2023. Therefore 15 out of the 40 newly hired DII athletic directors were female. 
  • There was a significant drop in ADs going from college athletics to an AD position in the newly hired category. The percentage dropped from 88.5% to 67.5%. 
  • Among newly hired ADs the percentage of master’s degrees dropped from 82.0% to 70.0%. The percentage of MBAs rose from 9.8% to 15.0%. 
  • The average age when hired at the first AD position went up from 41.6 to 43.8 years old. 
  • College coaching experience went up from 48.1% to 59.4% in 2023 which amounts to 184 out of 310. 
  • Out of all DII female ADs, there was an increase in White female ADs from 87.7% to 89.7%. Thus in 2023,70 out of the 78 DII female ADs were White. 

Division III Trends 

  • Within the last year, the number of DIII female ADs increased from 143 out of 445 to 152 out of 445. 
  • In 2023, 35.9% of newly hired DIII athletic directors were female, a great decrease from 61.2% in 2022. 
  • The number of African-American DIII athletic directors rose from 31 out of 445 in 2022 to 39 out of 445 in 2023. 
  • In 2022, 40 out of the 445 DIII athletic directors represented a minority group while in 2023 that number was 46 out of 445. 
  • Operations/facilities remained the most common track for newly hired ADs to their current role. 
  • The youngest newly hired AD was 29 years of age, as opposed to the youngest being 24 years of age in the last report. 
  • The number of newly hired ADs greatly increased from 33 to 85. 
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About the Sports Law and Business Program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

The Sports Law and Business program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is the only graduate program in the country that strategically combines law, business, and athletics to teach and prepare the next generaton of sports industry leaders. The program features an innovative curriculum, experiential learning and faculty experienced in both the classroom and within the industry. 

The Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is one of the nation's preeminent law schools, focused on offering students a personalized legal education. Ranked No. 1 in Arizona since 2010 and No. 32 nationally by U.S. News & World Report for 2024, ASU Law offers students the opportunity to tailor their education, to match externships to their interests and career services resources to help land their ideal jobs. Additionally, ASU Law's LEED Gold certified building in downtown Phoenix is steps away from the legal, political and economic heart of Arizona. For more information, visit law.asu.edu.

About Women Leaders in Sports

Founded in 1979, Women Leaders in Sports is the only nationally recognized professional membership organization whose mission is to develop, connect, advance, and champion women leaders working in sports. Women Leaders provides career and leadership training, access to a powerful network, and the resources to advance women at every stage of their careers. Learn more about the organization here and follow Women Leaders on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok @_WomenLeaders.