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Turnover in Prime College AD Roles Signals Changing Nature of the Job

  • Notre Dame, Ohio State both making high-profile shifts in athletic department leadership.
  • Conference realignment, NIL have helped to transform demands.
The Columbus Dispatch

Two of college sports’ most prominent athletics director jobs are turning over at a time of unprecedented change.

Notre Dame disclosed that their long-planned transition from Jack Swarbrick to Pete Bevacqua will become complete when Bevacqua fully takes the department reins on March 25, according to multiple reports. Separately, Ohio State has named former Texas A&M athletics director Ross Bjork to the same role, succeeding the retiring Gene Smith. 

The Buckeyes and Fighting Irish are two of the foremost brand names in college sports and enjoy some of the largest and most fervent fan followings of any schools. But amid that strength, Bevacqua and Bjork are stepping into their roles in a time of sharply heightened pressure and transformation in college sports.

Just since the Bevacqua transition plan was announced last June, the Big Ten and Big 12 have both expanded significantly; the Pac-12 is ceasing to exist; and name, image, and likeness rules continue to roil the industry. Notre Dame, meanwhile, is wanting to maintain its traditional football independence. All that has combined to make the current athletics director role somewhat more akin to a CEO than a traditional sports administrator. 

“The college athletics landscape is changing each day, and Ohio State was firmly committed to finding an athletics director who would lead us with confidence and innovative thinking into the future,” said Hiroyuki Fujita, chair of the university’s board of trustees.

To that end, Bevacqua arrives at the job with an extensive media background, an increasingly sought-after attribute among colleges for their sports leadership roles, while Bjork has been actively involved in the development and implementation of NIL provisions in Texas.

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