Athletics director receives national honors

KENNESAW, Ga. | Mar 2, 2017

Vaughn Williams wins Athletics Director of the Year Award

Vaughn Williams
Vaughn Williams

Kennesaw State Director of Athletics Vaughn Williams was named a winner of the 2016-17 Under Armour Athletics Director of the Year Award on Thursday by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA).

The ADOY Award highlights the efforts of athletics directors at all levels for their commitment and positive contributions to student-athletes, campuses and their surrounding communities. Williams will officially receive the honor this June at NACDA’s Convention in Orlando, Fla.

“On behalf of the entire Kennesaw State University community, I extend my congratulations to Vaughn and his family,” said KSU President Sam Olens. “His tenure as KSU’s Director of Athletics has been marked by unprecedented growth, not only in our sports programs, but in critical areas such as fundraising, corporate partnerships, community engagement, and student achievement. He is certainly deserving of this recognition.”

Williams, 47, is leading a transformation rarely seen in intercollegiate athletics. Since his arrival in May of 2011, Williams has formed the Kennesaw State Athletics Association, overseen a re-branding of the Department of Athletics that included new athletics marks, signed a partnership with adidas to be the official apparel provider of the Owls, and added women's lacrosse and football as the University's 17th and 18th intercollegiate sports.

“I am honored and humbled by this recognition, but this is an Owl Nation award,” said Williams. “It is indicative of the hard work and tireless efforts of our student-athletes, coaches and staff to build a Kennesaw State Athletics brand that we can all take pride in. Additionally, the support provided by the university, the local community, Owl Fund donors, corporate partners, and our season-ticket holders is second-to-none, and central to our success. I am blessed to be surrounded by such passionate individuals and privileged to come to work every day at Kennesaw State University.”

A signature moment during Williams’ tenure came in the fall of 2015 with the launch of a Division-I football program as the University’s 18th sport. After hiring former Georgia Tech assistant Brian Bohannon as the program's first head coach, the Owls have won 14 games, been ranked in the Top 25, and sold out eight home games over the program's first two seasons.

In addition to Bohannon, the impressive list of coaching hires by Williams includes men’s basketball head coach Al Skinner in 2015 and women's basketball head coach Agnus Berenato in 2016. Skinner was a two-time Big East coach of the year during a successful run at Boston College, while Berenato had previously built Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh into nationally-prominent programs.

“Once again, we are proud to honor the 28 directors of athletics, from all levels of NACDA's membership, as the Under Armour Athletics Director of the Year Class of 2016-17,” said NACDA Executive Director Bob Vecchione. “This award was created by the leadership of NACDA in 1998 to honor those athletics directors who have done an outstanding job in the eyes of their peers. In the 19-year history of the program, we have honored in excess of 425 of the top athletics directors in the industry.”

Among the criteria for the award’s selection were service as an AD for a minimum of five years; demonstration of commitment to higher education and student-athletes; continuous teamwork, loyalty and excellence; and the ability to inspire individuals or groups to high levels of accomplishments.

Additionally, each AD’s institution must have passed a compliance check through its appropriate governing body. Selection committees comprised of current and former directors of athletics, present and past NCAA and NAIA presidents, current and former commissioners and other key athletics administrators voted on nominees for the awards.

Williams is the first KSU athletic director to receive the honor in the award's 18-year history. He is the only active AD in the Big South Conference, and joins two other active AD's in the ASUN Conference, to be recognized. Williams was one of four selected at the FCS level this year, joining James Madison's Jeff Bourne, North Dakota's Brian Faison, and Georgetown's Lee Reed.

Williams’ tenure has seen the Owls capture 17 conference championships and make 19 appearances in NCAA postseason play. Those successes are highlighted by six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances by men's golf, the baseball team's stunning run to the 2014 NCAA Super Regional, two ASUN titles by women's golf and 12 conference titles combined for the track & field programs.

Putting an emphasis on the development of the total student-athlete, Williams’ team launched the OWLS Champions Initiative Presented by Henssler Financial in 2013. The OCI is an over-arching program that invests in the lives of KSU student-athletes that fosters not only academic and athletic excellence, but also impacts their development mentally, vocationally and spiritually, while building champions in the classroom, community and in competition.

In continuing efforts to finance the KSU Athletics Association and support its student-athletes and facilities, Williams' team has cultivated relationships with the business community. These long-term sponsorship agreements have generated millions in revenue from partnerships with Fifth Third Bank, WellStar Health System, Superior Plumbing, Henssler Financial and Carl Black Kennesaw.

Williams, who leads by example and empowers his staff to do the same while promoting the ideals of servant leadership, was named to the board of MUST Ministries, a volunteer-driven organization that addresses the basic needs of individuals, families and children with facilities in the Cobb and Cherokee counties.

He is a member of the Atlanta Sports Council, the Cobb Sports Alliance and a board member for Cobb County Travel & Tourism. In 2013, a season before football was launched on campus, Williams formed a Community Football Committee to engage local community influencers for their ideas and best practices.

Williams is a member of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) and Minority Opportunities Athletic Association (MOAA). He was appointed as the ASUN Conference representative to the NCAA Division I Council, and the Legislative Subcommittee. In 2016, he began a four-year term on the NIT Selection Committee.

A 1992 graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Williams played football for the Minutemen and was honored among the sports management program's distinguished alumni. He received a master’s degree from Boston College in 2002.

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