Lee De Leon: The Business of College Sports - Work in Sports Podcast e152

Lee De Leon, Purdue University Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director and Assistant Vice President of Development joins the Work in Sports to discuss working in the big business of college sports!

For more information on the the Master in Sport Business Leadership program at Seattle University email them to receive more information at MSBL@seattleu.edu or call 206-398-4610 to learn more about how they can help you work in sport and follow your passion. 

Now on with the show...

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

Big thanks to Seattle University – our first sponsor for the work in sports podcast and a really great program.

But let’s jump into today.

So who do you want to be?the business of college sports

Some of you listening may have that figured out, you have a vision for yourself and can see how your future in the sports industry will develop. Others the picture may be a little foggy you have some rough ideas and are working toward clarity, or maybe you have no clue, you just know your future is connected to sports.

And then after all that work figuring our your goal – you still have to figure out how to get there!

Sounds daunting right? Well, it doesn’t have to be.

You have tools at your disposal, free tools, that you probably aren’t using to their fullest.

Let’s run through an example – let’s say I had it in my head that I wanted to be a sports reporter on TV. Awesome, I have my goal – that’s often the hardest part.

Now, I can, with ease, go through the LinkedIn profiles of 20 sports anchors. I can see where they went to school, what they studied, where they found their first job, how long they took before their next job, where the went next, what awards they’ve won and how they grew.

I can go on YouTube and watch videos of them doing their job, maybe even find their demo reel.

I can do a simple google search on their name and read their professional bio and learn even more.

From this FREE information, I can create a step by step plan for myself to achieve my goal.

And this isn’t just for sports reporters. If you wanted to work in analytics, or player development, or public relations, or become an athletic director – the information is out there, if you are curious and creative in the way you search and discover.

This isn’t just theory – this is something highly successful people do every single day.

This week’s guest is living proof. Lee De Leon is Purdue University – hold tight this is a long title – Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director and Assistant Vice President of Development.

Lee decided long ago that he wanted to be a big 5 athletic director, so he studied the path of those who came before him.

He looked right at the career arc of the big 5 athletic directors and identified the steps he needed to take to reach his end goal…and it’s worked. Lee has earned his masters, and worked within the athletic department at LSU, University of Houston, University of Arizona, University of New Mexico, Abilene Christion and now, Purdue. He’s closer now that ever to reaching his goal, and after this conversation I’m convinced we’ll be reading a press release announcing him as a major college AD soon.

There is a lot to take away from this interview, so let’s get to it – here’s Lee De Leon, Purdue Universities Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director and Assistant Vice President of Development phew I did it.


Questions for Lee De Leon, Purdue University


1: Before we get into your roles in major college athletics, let’s go back to your days in college -- you completed your undergrad in business with an emphasis in marketing at Notre Dame and went right into you masters in sports management at Texas A&M. When and why did you figure out you wanted to focus on a career in sports, rather than a straight business role elsewhere?

2: What about the decision to get your Masters, it seems like in college athletics it is more of an expectation to have your masters than maybe other fields in sports, is that why you went right into a masters, you knew wanted to work in college athletics? 

3: You take that Marketing background and jump right into major college sports,  LSU as a marketing assistant pretty good starting point! And then University of Houston as the Director of marketing – so many in our audience are pursuing their first job with gusto right now, go back to that first job in your mind, what sticks out from that experience at LSU?

4: Since 2005 you’ve worked at 6 different universities – is that a factor of your pursuing the right role for you personally, or is that just a normal

l function of working in college athletics, that you often have to relocate to move up in your career?

5: You made a bit of a career shift from the marketing side to the fundraising and development side of the industry when you advanced from University of Houston to University of Arizona – what was the stimulus behind this career move?

6: The truth about major college athletics is that so much of the programs operate on outside gifts and giving – it’s an incredible important role tied directly to the health of a program, must be a pretty rewarding experience.

7: What would you say are the skills sets most important to thrive in a fund raising and development role?

 8: Up to this point of your career you had been A top dog, but not THE top dog, but then that changed you progressed to athletic director of Abilene Christian in 2014 – how different is it to go from being the master of one segment to being the master of all realms including 16 division one mens and womens teams?

9: While at Abilene you conducted major negotiations and long term deals with powerhouse companies like Nike, IMG and Vivature – what is the key to working with and negotiating with major outside businesses?

10:  Ok, we’re finally up to where you are now. Purdue – big title at a big school. Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director and Assistant VP for Development – so describe to all of us the major functions of your role now at Purdue?

11: You’ve been at major schools in major different conferences – how different is the experience from school to school – do the various programs follow the personality of the AD, or are there great similarities from location to location?

12: For a decade plus you’ve been a leader of men and women in various roles, holding different responsibilities – what are the most important attributes you look for when hiring staff?

13:  We’ll finish up with this – what do you love most about your role at Purdue?

There are so many parts I loved about this interview, obviously Lee’s vision to reverse engineer his career path, to look at the people holding the job he wanted and figure out how they got there. I love this proactive planning!

Also, his step to development, and understanding that role was about listening and aligning with a donors passions. So smart.

I really appreciate Lee taking the time out of his schedule to be with us and share so much knowledge – thanks for listening, and don’t forget Facebook LIVE session Thursday night! 7:30 pm EST – I’ll have a theme and then open it up to all of your sports career focused questions live from the Work in Sports facebook page.

Make sure to check it out.

By Brian Clapp | January 30, 2019
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