Monday, October 13, 2014

The Sportsthodoxy Interview - Kevin Wilson

While Duke may grab the college sports headlines in Durham, the city is home to another Division 
I school that's making some noise in athletics. Last season North Carolina Central's men's basketball team went 17-1 in-conference on its way to a MEAC championship and a first-ever NCAA Tournament bid. Thanks to a fortuitous Twitter encounter, we got the chance to sit down and talk with one of the individuals behind the rise of NCCU, Associate Athletic Director Kevin Wilson. From Kierkegaard to Fayetteville and the ins and outs of development for an athletic program, here's the straight scoop from the Eagles' Nest: 

A lot of sports fans don’t understand how development and fundraising work for their favorite programs. Can you walk me through the basics? 

Athletics is like any business. In order to see a return, you must INVEST at all levels. Be it via annual, major, or planned giving, strong fiscal support allows programs to provide the best student-athlete experience on the front end. That investment directly impacts the amount of resources an athletics department has at its disposal from personnel, facilities, and scholarships. Thus, giving them a higher probability to compete and win championships.
What are the do’s and don’ts of development? Any stories you’d like to share? 

In terms of the Do’s, I encourage you to join your local athletics annual fund. Ours is the Eagle Club and you can JOIN TODAY by visiting It offers a compliant, gratifying, and impactful way to support student-athletes. As it relates to don't’s, DO NOT provide extra benefits! Individuals with athletics interests must refrain from providing extra benefits to student-athletes. An extra benefit is any special arrangement by an athletics representative to provide a student-athlete, or his/her relatives, guardians, or friends a benefit not expressly authorized by NCAA legislation. It can range from cash or loans in any amount, co-signing or arranging a loan, or usage of an automobile, etc. Fortunately for me, I do NOT have any cautionary tales.
You’ve got a degree in philosophy from Duke. How did you go from Kierkegaard and Bertrand Russell to fundraising campaigns? 

I do and I did. My transition from Duke to the fundraising profession started in grad school. I was given a long-shot opportunity to work with a promising men’s basketball coach at NCCU. After a rewarding year as the Director of Basketball Operations, I met an ambitious fundraiser who encouraged me to play a bigger role in the student-athlete experience. My Athletics Director realized my commitment and has done everything in her power to ensure my continued growth as an administrator and leader. Best career decision I ever made. 
You left NCCU for Fayetteville State for a few years. What brought you back to Durham?

My experience at Fayetteville State was outstanding. Alumni, administration, and loyal supporters embraced me from day one and the student-athletes took great pride in their institution. But Durham is home for my family and I. The city is blossoming and continues to be one of the top cities to live, work, and raise a family. I also believe in the university's motto of truth and service and admire our leadership’s outside-the-box approach. NCCU has potential to achieve great things at the Division I level and I relish the opportunity help our student-athletes make history. 
Last year NCCU dominated the MEAC in basketball, won the conference, and earned the school’s first-ever NCAA tournament bid. Did that give a boost to what you do? 

Without question, support and interest in the program has increased tremendously. We are having productive conversations every day about the future of NCCU Basketball and we are excited about the road ahead. 
How does a smaller school like NC Central fit into a crowded sports market like the Triangle, where you have three major universities, plus fan bases for teams like Wake Forest, ECU, and Appalachian State? How do you carve out a niche against that kind of competition for the sports fan’s loyalty and attention? 

I am a firm believer that a brand with value can and will find its place in a saturated market. We are a top tier institution that has been recognized nationally for quality education. The NCCU brand is valuable to the city of Durham and the great state of North Carolina. We offer a great gameday experience and passionate student-athletes who compete at a high level. We also have a passionate alumni base and a communal feel that anyone can appreciate. Those elements make up our niche.
NCCU shares Durham with Duke, and the first Bull City Gridiron Classic helped build the rivalry between the schools. How do you see that relationship developing? 

First and foremost, I give kudos to the City of Durham, our local Chamber and both administrations for making the Bull City Gridiron Classic a reality. Despite the most recent outcomes going in Duke’s favor, I believe that this series will become increasingly competitive. Our program will continue to develop and close that gap. Moreover, the City of Durham will participate in the activities surrounding the game and gain an increased appreciation for having two top tier Division I institutions in their city.
Would you rather beat Duke or NC A&T? 

I love to compete. Regardless of the arena, I want to beat them both.
Where do you see NCCU athletics in five years? Ten? 

In the next 5 to 10 years, I see NCCU Athletics with the facilities and personnel to consistently compete for Conference and National Championships. 

I’m a transplanted Yankee with no ties to any school in the area. Sell me on being an NC Central Eagles fan. 

There is nothing like first-hand experience. I am confident once you join us on gameday, participate in a special event, or meet one our future leaders, you will feel right at home and never want to leave the Eagle’s Nest.

Many thanks to Kevin for taking the time answer these questions. You can keep up with all of NCCU's athletics over at the Eagle Pride website, or come out to a home game at O'Kelly-Riddick Stadium in Durham.
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