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BIRMINGHAM, Ala.- The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) has announced the passing of former Commissioner Dr. James Frank.

james frankFrankHis many notable accomplishments include serving as the first African-American President of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

“Dr. Frank’s impact and legacy with the NCAA and the Southwestern Athletic Conference is truly remarkable,” said current SWAC Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland. “He was a true pioneer in the field of collegiate athletics and his vision and legacy continues to positively impact countless student-athletes both past and present.”

“The Southwestern Athletic Conference will forever be indebted to Dr. Frank and his contributions to the SWAC,” said McClelland. “We will continue to strive on daily basis to embody the core principles of his amazing leadership.”

Dr. Frank served two years as a first lieutenant in the Army Corp of Engineers before earning a master’s in education from Springfield College in Massachusetts.

In the early 1970’s, Dr. Frank served as Dean of Students and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York.

He later served as assistant basketball coach at Lincoln University before being named head coach and ultimately the college’s President.

He began his educational career when he was awarded a four-year basketball scholarship to Lincoln University in Missouri, eventually becoming captain of the basketball team.

Under Frank’s leadership the NCAA became more inclusive of women’s sports. Dr. Frank first served as secretary-treasurer before taking the office of the President. He believed during his tenure that “’separate but equal’ does not lead to equality.”

He led the NCAA Planning Committee that eventually led to a demographic change in Association leadership. Dr. Frank was named one of the NCAA’s 100 Most Influential Student-Athletes and in 2007, he won the NCAA’s prestigious Gerald R. Ford Award as well.

During Dr. Frank's presidency, he was a significant influence in defining NCAA decisions:

He chaired the governance subcommittee and oversaw the governance plan that defined how and when women sports and championships would become part of the NCAA.

Frank presided over the passing of Proposition 48, the legislation that set eligibility standards for incoming freshman student-athletes, which resulted in raising graduation rates.

He facilitated enhanced presidential collaboration through the NCAA Long-Range Planning Committee that lead to a demographic change in Association leadership and was integral in the NCAA's establishment of the Minority Opportunities and Interest Committee, a group devoted to inclusiveness in Association policy decisions.

From 1983 until his retirement in 1998, Dr. Frank served as Commissioner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). He returned to the position as Interim Commissioner in April 2001, where he served for 20 months. 

Dr. James Frank was one of a few individuals who elevated through the collegiate ranks as a student-athlete, coach, educator, college president, and conference commissioner in a career that lasted over 50 years..


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