As far as his career trajectory goes, Graham Neff said the goal was always to run his own collegiate athletic department some day. He insisted, though, he was never in a rush.
“Aspirational, but not urgent,” he said.
At the ripe age of 38, he’s reached that goal. While he said he wasn’t told at any point during his first nine years at Clemson – first as an associate athletic director before taking over as deputy athletic director – that he was line to be Dan Radakovich’s successor, the school officially executed its internal succession plan Thursday, officially naming Neff as the 14th athletic director in its history.
“Just really a surreal day for me from a professional standpoint,” Neff said.
Now that he’s got the job, what is his first order of business?
Neff said it involves some of the most pressing topics in collegiate athletics, which include continuing to give student-athletes as safe of an environment as possible for competition amid another surge of COVID-19 cases nationwide. He called that a “Day Zero” priority.
“Right now, we’re in the throes of it, and this is even before January,” Neff said. “We’re continuing to manage COVID and obviously the new (Omicron) variant and how that’s affecting all of college athletics.”
Name, image and likeness and its place in the shifting landscape of college athletics is another hot-button topic that Neff said has to continue to be addressed.
“NIL opportunities and how we work within our states and NCAA guidelines, it’s just such a moving target right now within the industry,” Neff said. “And where there are opportunities to continue to be competitive from a student-athlete standpoint, now we can educate and equip our student athletes in our community and what NIL is and isn’t and how we can support the student-athletes for their opportunity to build their brand.
“That’s just one notion amongst a lot as far as priorities. But that’s so dynamic right now, and we’re at such a critical time from an NCAA standpoint that the focus and prioritization of just that one little topic is certainly high, high on the list.”
Picture courtesy Clemson University.
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