Gloria Nevarez: Going Beyond Labels - Work in Sports podcast

West Coast Conference commissioner Gloria Nevarez is the first Latina commissioner of a Division 1 conference - but she's much more than that. In this episode of the Work in Sports podcast, we go beyond the labels.

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Hi, everybody, I’m Brian Clapp, Director of Content for and this is the Work in Sports podcast…

I’ve never really had a big goal. I know it sounds weird for a guy that shares career advice all the time to share that…but it’s real.

I went through college day by day. I had an inkling of what I wanted to do in the sports industry, but I never had some lofty aspiration.

I started working at CNN/Sports Illustrated and all my goals were short term. Get this game edited on time, I have a press conference coming up, the show starts in 20 minutes.gloria nevarez west coast conference commissioner

Maybe every once in a while I’d start to think about being a producer someday…but more often than not, I was living exactly where my feet were on the ground.

Looking back, I don’t have a perspective on whether this was good or bad… it just was. I eventually became a producer, and then a news director. But I still never had these high aspirations to own a network, or become a CEO… I always felt I had so much to learn right where I was.

Most people will tell you to set goals, write them down, read them, aim high – all the clichés – and they are right. You should. I’m not telling you, you shouldn’t.

But you’d be amazed at how many people, how many successful people, don’t really think that way. Most people I speak with in the industry speak of flexibility, being liquid and following opportunity, being versatile and fitting into the roles that need fitting.

Most of the people I talk to share their stories of doing whatever needs doing, of emptying trashcans that needed emptying, of changing lightbulbs, of picking up the slack around the office.

Most people don’t say – I knew when I was in college that I wanted to be the Chief Marketing Officer of an NHL team.

I don’t think people process information that way…no matter how many books, and other podcasts, tell them they should. I believe most people think at most 6 months ahead, not 6-10 years.

And you know what, I think that is smart.

Getting locked into a career concept can be limiting. Convincing yourself there is only one way to achieve, can make you look the other way when opportunities arise.

Today’s guest Gloria Nevarez, Commissioner of the West Coast Conference didn’t set out saying, someday I’ll run this league you’ll see!

She took her steps. Undergrad in sports management. Law degree. Compliance officer. Assistant Athletic Director. Associate Commissioner.

She worked to gain experience and figure things out along the way. She learned sponsorship, fundraising, negotiating, relationship building and so much more. And you know what, these were all qualifying experiences to become commissioner.

At some point along the way, maybe when she was Sr. Associate Athletic Director at the University of Oklahoma or Senior Associate Commissioner at the Pac12 -  I’m sure she started to think… maybe I can be a commissioner. But she discovered her path while she was on the path.

The point is, stay open, stay flexible, learn a multitude of skills and enjoy the journey… like Gloria Nevarez has… well, I guess I should let her tell you…


Questions for Gloria Nevarez, West Coast Conference Commissioner:


1: When an event like March Madness comes around and one of your teams is a #1 seed and another qualifies and faces the reigning champion – do you get to sit back like a fan and enjoy…or is it a totally different experience for you?

2: Let’s dig a little into your background. You grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area but traveled across the country to attend UMass and play basketball.

As an undergraduate student-athlete, break it down for us, were you more focused on the athlete part or the student part?

3: I’ve worked with and hired many people that come from a competitive athletic background, did you feel that high-level experience, the competition, the time management, the discipline – set you up for success after your playing days?

4: Right after UMass you pursued your Law degree, back on the west coast, at UC Berkeley – why was this an important step for where you wanted to go in your career?

5: Did you have clear goals for yourself at this point, like that you wanted to be the commissioner of a major college conference someday, or was it more of a step-by-step process for you?

6: You worked in compliance at multiple universities, making sure the coaches and players followed the rules -- Compliance sounds like working in internal affairs on a cop show, everyone cringes when they see you coming wondering what they’ve done wrong…how challenging of a role was this?

6: Was this deep understanding of the way things should be done, or better put, have to be done, a qualifying experience for becoming a commissioner?

7: In a recent profile in the LA Times, which is a great article I suggest everyone reads it, you outlined examples of sexist behavior directed your way as you climbed the ladder in college athletics.

Actions like the ones you outline in the story are unacceptable, but unfortunately commonplace, how should young women, coming up in any industry but especially sports, handle situations like this?

8: Have things changed at all in the last 25 years? I know we talk about it more, I know there are more high-profile cases, but in the day to day of life, have things changed?

9: When you worked in compliance you kept people in line and following the rules, what are the biggest components and responsibilities of your role as West Coast Conference Commissioner?

10: As the commissioner, you’re often working with your universities, but also individual players and coaches and athletic directors – how important is it to be strong in relationship building to get everyone moving toward the same goals as a unit?

11: In previous roles you’ve had a very specific focus – now as commissioner, everything falls under your purview – what type of things worry or challenge you the most in this role?

12: As the first Latina commissioner in division 1 college athletics, how do you feel being a role model and being told you are an inspiration to many?

13: You’ve had a lot of press lately, articles in the LA Times, Undefeated, this podcast… and most everyone focuses on your heritage and gender – does it ever get frustrating, where you wish you were judged solely on your accomplishments rather than a label?

14: For anyone out there listening who wants to work in college athletics – what is the lasting piece of advice you want to provide them that can help them stand out and grow their career.

Listen in to the podcast for Gloria Nevarez, West Coast Conference commissioner's great answers!

By Brian Clapp | March 27, 2019
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