The State of HEA: Reviewing 2021 and Looking Ahead to 2022


As 2021 comes to a close, I wanted to share my thoughts on the past year and what I look forward to in 2022 for Higher Ed Athletics.

In 2021, I interviewed 28 higher education administrators, including 2 presidents/chancellors and 24 athletic directors for 20 hours of recorded conversation (*the unpublished interviews will be released in early 2022).

2021 HEA Podcast Guests

I started the HEA podcast in 2019 once I was accepted into the Higher Education EdD program at Indiana University. I wanted to become better at the entire interview process for research and thought building up an interview library during the entire doctoral student experience would help prepare me for future opportunities (following interview research protocols has definitely helped me grow).

To all the listeners of a very niche and long-form podcast, and for those that followed me to YouTube to watch my black and white interviews, thank you. I try to ask practical and strategic questions in the interviews, and am happy with the results and lessons I learned from my guests this past year. If you enjoy HEA, please consider liking and reviewing it on YouTube, Apple, and Spotify – I would greatly appreciate it!

I am excited about the guests already scheduled for 2022 and would appreciate suggestions on which athletic directors and presidents/chancellors I should try to have on next. If you have a suggestion of a guest or a recommendation on a topic to cover, please email me at HigherEdAthletics@Gmail.com.

6 Questions I got asked in 2021

  1. Who was your favorite interview?
    • Trying to answer this is really difficult because I have a specific reason and interest for interviewing everyone that agrees to be on the podcast. Instead, I would say 10 of the interviews of 2021 that I’ve re-listened to the most for a current project of mine include Jamie Boggs (Grand Canyon), Chrissi Rawak (Delaware), Mike Hill (Charlotte), Nina King (Duke), Wren Baker (North Texas), Keith Carver (UT Martin Chancellor), DeWayne Peevy (DePaul), Tim Duncan (New Orleans), Amanda Braun (Milwaukee), and John Cunningham (Cincinnati).
  2. Will you ever interview coaches or faculty for the podcast?
    • I do hope to have some coaches on in the future to share their perspectives on higher education and the changes in college athletics. I think it would be great to have Xavier men’s basketball coach Travis Steele on the podcast. We are from the same small town in Indiana and our parents live a half mile away from each other on a country road so that could be a fun conversation.
    • I am about to launch a new podcast in 2022 where I interview faculty and researchers that align with my research interests. The purpose would be to learn more about academia in general, build relationships for future collaborations, and to help keep myself focused and motivated on finishing my doctoral degree. And as a practitioner, I’m always curious about the disconnect between administrators and faculty, and would like to get opinions from others on how to improve this in the future.
  3. Why did you decide to partner with IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute?
    • I had already been doing work with the IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute, helping coordinate their academic journal and interviewing the journal authors for an accompanying podcast. And I knew Dr. David Pierce, the director, could help me improve as a researcher, specifically building sound surveys and how to analyze and code interview transcripts. The partnership has helped the SII expand into college athletics administration content with the HEA podcast and a Word doc of downloadable questions for the classroom for several episodes. The SII is releasing a Special Issue of the Sports Innovation Journal focused on changes to college athletics that will come out in early 2022.
  4. How is the doctoral program going so far?
    • So far, so good. I still have straight A’s in all my classes but I start statistics this spring, so that will be interesting. I only took 1 class in the fall with a newborn that arrived in September, but hoping to regularly take 2 each term moving forward. And the tuition benefit at work only covers 1 class and I needed to put that other money towards paying down student loan debt. Once we’re debt free I’ll have more money to throw towards tuition (Side note: We are almost finished with student loans after having $80,000 total a few years ago! If you’re paying off student loans, don’t give up and try to take advantage of no payments/no interest right now by paying down the principal balance if you can).
    • The flexibility of this EdD program allows me to get credit for a research project and completing a certain amount of hours for an internship, which I’ll be doing with the IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute around my work schedule. I had some frustrations and uncertainty about the program earlier in 2021, but I’m much happier now and see the benefit of completing this degree and how the flexible curriculum can help prepare me for my professional goals.
  5. How do you have time to do the podcast?
    • Working in compliance right now in college athletics is a pretty demanding job, especially working with football during an early signing period and everything that comes with the transfer portal. Despite being busy though, I have always approached HEA as my passion project and outlet from the day job. There were several lunch hours where I would jump on a zoom for a podcast interview, too, or I would be strategic about interviewing folks in a different time zone to record around my office hours. And having 3 kids under 6 during a pandemic, we don’t really leave the house much, so once bedtime for them hits I would start editing interviews or do research on potential questions and guests I’d like to reach out to. Another thing that helped me this year was recording as many episodes as possible in the summer before our baby was born in September. I am still figuring out my strategy for interviewing people in 2022 to avoid interview burnout, work conflicts, and keeping the conversations relevant to the many changes in the industry. The podcast is definitely time consuming, and doesn’t generate revenue, but that wasn’t the intent anyways and I absolutely love interviewing and learning from people. I see no signs of slowing down and am actually excited about an additional podcast and a potential interview collaboration outside of podcasting.
  6. Do you want to be an Athletic Director?
    • That’s complicated. I decided a long time ago with my wife that I didn’t want to move our growing family all over the country chasing job titles or added responsibilities to climb the ladder if I could work in athletics and be happy here in our home state. I think that has limited my ability to realistically get an athletic director job in the future. Except for maybe at one institution. My dream job has always been to become the athletic director and vice chancellor at IUPUI. That is the reason I study urban research universities and interview their athletic directors on the podcast, one of the reasons I started helping out at the IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute, and certainly played a factor in deciding to work and study in the same system at IU Bloomington where I can learn more about university-wide administration. My wife and I are both IUPUI graduates, too, and the university has a special place in our hearts. That athletic department has incredible potential that could use Cincinnati, UAB, UCF, Houston, and other urban research universities as a blueprint for the next 25 years. I know the chances of actually becoming the VC/AD at IUPUI one day are slim, which means if I stay only a practitioner, it’s a good thing I absolutely love working in athletics at Indiana and could definitely be a Hoosier career lifer. And if I pursue a career in academia I think interviewing all these athletic directors will be incredibly helpful for my research and teaching. I call that a win-win-win because I would be happy in any of those scenarios.

8 Goals for HEA in 2022

  1. Interview 20 new athletic directors and at least 5 new presidents/chancellors and choose 3 thematic sets of questions to be addressed
  2. Strategically collaborate with other industry companies
  3. Create a new podcast/YouTube show under the HEA brand focused on interviewing faculty/researchers (send me show name suggestions)
  4. Plan a virtual or in-person event (to be held in 2023) for athletic directors and presidents/chancellors of urban division 1 institutions to discuss the future of college athletics in the city with their mayors and businesses
  5. Increase (free) speaking engagements in the classroom and at academic conferences to become a better speaker
  6. Complete an athletic department assessment project for a president/chancellor
  7. Continue to build out my Higher Ed Athletics website and YouTube channel as my post-doc website
  8. Get published in an academic journal as a co-author

Thanks for listening to and watching Higher Ed Athletics in 2021, and I hope you consider sticking around for more in 2022!

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