Vanderbilt Makes Intriguing Selection for Athletic Director

Malcom Turner

NASHVILLE, TN — On Tuesday December 11, 2018, Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos named Malcolm Turner, a proven and highly accomplished sports business executive with a passion for the transformative power of education, as the university’s new vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletics director. Turner, a member of the NBA’s senior leadership team and president of the NBA G League, will join the university on Feb. 1, 2019.

“I set out to find a thought leader with the skill set and vision to manage the next stage of transformation for Vanderbilt Athletics, and that’s exactly what we found in Malcolm Turner,” Zeppos said. “Malcolm is a proven executive with deep expertise in multiple business disciplines including management, marketing and development across the sports landscape of teams, leagues, facilities and major events. He also carries a deep and personal commitment to education, evidenced by his own academic achievements and his extensive community service. His exceptional skills, combined with his passion for education and drive for excellence, will bring immense value not only to the Vanderbilt Commodores, but to the rest of the university and to the entire Nashville community.” 

Vanderbilt interviewed a number of highly accomplished candidates and ultimately decided Turner was the right fit to carry on Vanderbilt’s athletics program.

“The level of interest in this role from a superb and diverse set of candidates was nothing short of remarkable,” noted Zeppos. “This was a testament to what I believe is an inspiring and distinctive approach to the student athlete experience that I call ‘the Vanderbilt Way’ – a deep commitment to the comprehensive development of student athletes to excel on the field of play, academically and in life.”

Zeppos said Turner is the right leader to take the university’s commitment to student-athletes to the next level and achieve success on and off the field. “Malcolm is a problem solver with a unique ability to bring people together around a common vision,” he added. “I am confident that he will have an immediate and profound impact on the Commodores’ success as an elite athletics program by building new relationships and new sources of revenue, while recruiting and retaining extraordinarily talented coaches, students and staff.”

“I am honored to join such a storied university with a historic commitment to excellence in everything it does,” Turner said. “Vanderbilt University and the city of Nashville are on the move, and I’m excited to be a part of that transformation and help position the Commodores and Vanderbilt’s unique approach to developing student-athletes as a national and international model. I look forward to supporting and partnering with our student-athletes, coaches, facility managers, staff and the entire Commodores community to help attain and provide the resources for our teams to succeed.” 

Turner graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and went on to earn joint J.D./.M.B.A. degrees from Harvard University. 

Turner is also an accomplished community leader, having served on the advisory boards for Teach for America, the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, the UNC Board of Visitors and the board of the Morehead-Cain Scholarship Fund. 

As a student at UNC Chapel Hill, Turner was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist, Morehead-Cain Scholar and recipient of the Ernest L. Mackie Chancellor’s Award for character, scholarship and leadership. 

Turner’s tenure as president of the NBA G League is hallmarked by growth, expansion and transformation.  

Under Turner’s leadership, the NBA G League has enjoyed unprecedented growth across all areas of its business and basketball operations — from record numbers of NBA G League alumni in the NBA, to a first-of-its-kind expanded entitlement partnership with Gatorade, to innovative new player contract types. A champion for NBA Two-Way Contracts (newly incorporated in the NBA’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement) and NBA G League Select Contracts (newly announced as part of the G League’s recently launched professional path), Turner’s vision deepened the league’s commitment to player development.  

Turner’s commitment to development also has extended to coaches, with more than 50 coaches ascending from the NBA G League to NBA team benches during his tenure.

Through strategic partnerships with NBA teams, 10 new clubs joined the league, all of the NBA G League’s record 27 teams now enjoy single-affiliation with NBA parent clubs, and roughly one-third of the league’s teams are playing in, or currently constructing, new facilities. By any measure, the NBA G League has undergone an expansive transformation and today stands as a thriving and integral strategic asset that is creating tangible value throughout the NBA system. The NBA G League prepares players, coaches, referees, trainers and front office staff for the NBA while also serving as the league’s research and development laboratory to test experimental playing rules, new technologies and emerging partner initiatives for potential application by the NBA.

“Malcolm was a unique candidate and is a perfect fit for taking Vanderbilt Athletics forward,” said Vanderbilt University Board of Trust member John R. Ingram. Ingram served on the search committee and also chairs the board’s Athletics Committee. “I’m excited to assist and support Malcolm as we write this next chapter in Commodores history.”

Prior to joining the NBA, Turner worked at Wasserman Media Group, where he helped build the firm’s preeminent Consulting Division as its managing director, creating and managing sports, entertainment, venue and new product launch strategies for leading corporate brands and properties. He went on to help build a multinational footprint for this practice before launching Wasserman’s Golf Division as one of the leading golf management teams representing some of the game’s top personalities and brands. Prior to Wasserman, he served as senior vice president and a member of the leadership team of OnSport, a North Carolina-based sports and entertainment consulting firm (later acquired by Wasserman) that managed strategic initiatives for Fortune 100 brands across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NASCAR, Madison Square Garden, STAPLES Center and other marquee properties. The firm also represented the media rights for prominent rightsholders in the professional and college sports landscape.

Turner’s selection concludes a process that began in September with Zeppos seeking and gathering input from coaches, students, alumni, faculty, staff and the Commodores larger fan base about Vanderbilt Athletics and what is needed to continue the program’s success. 

An advisory council comprised of Vanderbilt students, faculty, staff and alumni also informed the search, serving as a resource for the chancellor in identifying the qualities and important responsibilities of the athletics director.

The formal search committee, armed with this wide-ranging input and supported by executive search firm Korn Ferry’s Jed Hughes and Kyle Bowlsby, was chaired by Zeppos and included Vanderbilt Board of Trust Chairman Bruce Evans, Ingram, Vanderbilt School of Medicine Associate Dean of Alumni Affairs and alumna Ann Price, a former Commodores standout in singles and doubles tennis, and YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee Vice President for External Affairs and alumnus Shan Foster, one of the most decorated basketball players in Vanderbilt history. 

“Malcolm takes on a Commodores athletics program that has enjoyed unprecedented success academically and athletically under David Williams’ leadership — and he’s the right person to build upon David’s trailblazing career and legacy at the university,” Zeppos said.

During current Vice Chancellor for Athletics and University Affairs and Athletics Director Williams’ tenure, the Commodores have won four national championships — in women’s bowling, baseball and women’s tennis. Vanderbilt has also won more than 19 league titles and tournaments, including the men’s golf and women’s tennis Southeastern Conference championships and the Southland Conference Bowling Championship. The Vanderbilt football team will play in its sixth bowl game in the last 10 years later this month, breaking a 26-year drought in 2008. The women’s soccer team recently also added to the program’s success by taking home the SEC regular season championship in October.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to follow in David Williams’ footsteps – he’s set a high bar for what a top-notch athletics program can accomplish and has built a foundation of success and excellence for the Commodores,” Turner said. 

Academically, Vanderbilt student-athletes have earned over a cumulative 3.0 GPA every year for the past 13 years. In the NCAA’s recently released Academic Progress Rates (APR) for the 2016-17 academic year, a total of 11 Commodore athletic programs finished with perfect 1,000 APR scores, and Vanderbilt football finished No. 2 in the nation.

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