SIAC selects commissionerJuly 7, 2000
The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's search for a new commissioner isapparently over and their choice is bringing a lot to the table.
"As far as I'm concerned and as far as the presidents are concerned, it's a done deal,"Vowels said. He said he met Thursday with the conference's search committee of fourpresidents, chaired by Fort Valley State president Dr. Oscar Prater, and was offered the position.Though he has not finalized his contract, his lawyers are looking it over and are working out thefinal details. Vowels said his first day was Friday (July 7) and he expects to be in theconference's Atlanta office on Monday (July 10).
The key thing that lured him to the SIAC was the challenge and the opportunity toprovide new direction.
"The leadership role was key," he said. "During my conversations with the presidents,they talked about bringing a new perspective, fresh ideas. I think I can do that. (Formercommissioner) Wallace Jackson did an outstanding job and I don't want to take away from that.I hope I can add to what he's done and bring some new ideas."
Jackson, the SIAC's first full-time commissioner, resigned in January after ten years onthe job. He has cited inaction from the conference's presidents as a key reason for hisresignation and the conference's stagnation. Three institutions have resigned from the Div. IIconference in the last three years and Jackson has been beset by financial and staffiingdifficulties.
In Vowels the SIAC is getting someone with a legal background who has a wide range ofexperience in sports administration and marketing and a man with deep black college roots.
He is a graduate of Duke University where he lettered three years as an outsidelinebacker on the Blue Devils football team. He later attended the North Carolina CentralUniversity school of law finishing in 1988 before taking a position with the state of Tennessee.Prior to going to the Big Ten, he served as compliance coordinator for Vanderbilt University inNashville.
Vowels handled a multitude of responsibilities for the Big Ten including corporatepartnerships, marketing and promotions, licensing and merchandising, compliance as well asfootball and baseball oversight. He left that job a month ago and moved back to Atlanta after hiswife was offered a job there with the Nortel Corporation. He had been talking to SIAC officialsfor some time before making the move to Atlanta.
The transition from the major college, big money environment of the Big Ten to blackcolleges apparently does not concern him. In addition to his attendance an NCCU, both hisparents are black college graduates, his father serving for some time as dean of the Atlanta(University) School of Business and recently retiring from Tennessee State University where hewas an economics professor. Vowels was also one of three finalists in 1995 for the Mid EasternAthletic Conference (MEAC) commissioner's job along with current Southwestern AthleticConference (SWAC) commissioner Rudy Washington and former Arizona State athleticdirector, Charles S. Harris, who recently completed his fifth year in the position.
"I've been around HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) all my life," hesaid.
"It has been referred to as a culture shock, but I don't think it will be. Any job comeswith some difficulty and certainly things are done differently in Div. I to Div. II. But I think Ihave the kind of skills and experience to bridge those differences."
In his conversations with the presidents, Vowels said they emphasized fundraising,recruitment of new members and officiating. Even more important may be keeping the Div. IIconference together in the face of dwindling resources and the recent defections. There is alsostill talk of some kind of a two-tier, Div. I, Div. II alignment. He said he expects to address each issue, some on which he's already made progress.
"One of things I handled for the Big Ten is corporate partnerships and I've already beenon the phone talking to them (corporations) about whether they'd be interested in what we haveto offer," he said.
"I asked the presidents whether they saw athletics as an albatross or burden. They saidthey didn't. There are some things we need to talk about. You have to have a strong staff. Theresources are always key. We want to raise the level of play in the conference, improve thechampionships and give everyone a good student/athlete experience.
"Once I can get in and take a look, I'll have a better idea of the direction I want to go," Vowels said.