Friday morning marked Nina King’s official introduction as Duke's Vice President and Director of Athletics.
In a socially-distanced Cameron Indoor Stadium crowd, President Vincent Price introduced King to a room full of King's friends and family, Duke coaches, athletic department staff and media members live on ACC Network. King spoke on a variety of topics pertaining to Duke athletics and collegiate sports in general, emphasizing her plans to continue making Blue Devil sports an area for student-athletes to flourish and how she sees Duke’s role in the landscape of college athletics.
“First and foremost, we are going to continue to provide a world class experience for our student-athletes. A meaningful and enriching academic and athletic experience,” King said. “We are going to ensure that our student-athletes are performing in the classroom, graduating and are afforded every opportunity to be productive members of society once they leave Duke.
“We’re going to continue to provide opportunities for competitive success, to win ACC and NCAA championships, build on the momentum of this historic year that we’re having—we have six conference championships, unmatched—we will build on the incredibly rich traditions and our departmental strengths by being innovative and modern in our approach.”
In terms of how King plans to lead the department, she intends to promote collaboration and teamwork to achieve the goals she wants to as athletic director.
“My leadership style, you know it’s all about teamwork and collaboration. We're all going to sit around the table, discuss decisions that we need to make, get buy-in from all of our key decision-makers, of course, embrace disagreements but all walk out of the room at the end of the day on the same page making decisions as I said, in the best interest of our student-athletes and our recreation community.”
King also spoke on the historic nature of her hire, with her appointment making her one of three Black women currently holding an athletic director title. She is also the first woman and first person of color to hold the office at Duke.
“I do want to recognize the historic significance of my appointment. I am a female, Black athletic director. There are only a few of us around the country,” King said. “We've got work to do in our profession to continue to build the pipeline and ensure that deserving people have opportunities to grow and to lead. One of the biggest reasons that I am here today is to be a role model for little girls who look like me, and to tell them ‘dream big' because your dreams can indeed be achieved. But I’m a boy mom, and my message is the same to little boys. To children of all races—aspire to achieve greatness, dream big, be passionate—with dedication and hard work anything is possible."
King was also asked about the rapidly changing landscape of college athletics, and the way she sees Duke playing a role. Six different states have name, image and likeness laws going into effect July 1, and although North Carolina is not one of them, it will have an impact on college athletics nationwide.
“I think we should be a leader at the forefront of change. That is what Duke is all about.... Name, image and likeness is a good thing. Change is OK. As an NCAA, as an organization we need to remain nimble and flexible. Need to be ready to provide our student-athletes greater opportunities and allow them to profit off of their name, image and likeness, with the appropriate guard rails.”
Although King was an in-house hire, the job was by no means handed to her, as the search committee interviewed a number of candidates before ultimately landing on King.
“The process was a typical standard search process. As I mentioned, we had a great search committee,” King said. “I went into it, not assuming anything, this was not a beauty contest, I wasn't one of one, I needed to earn the job. And so I went in, of course I knew everybody on the search committee and had relationships with most, if not all, but I went into it again focused on winning and earning the job, and I was confident that I could do that, and clearly I did.”
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King has been under the tutelage of current athletic director Kevin White dating all the way back to her time at Notre Dame from 2005-08, and she shared some of the lessons he taught her.
“Kevin [White] has taught me what it means to be a great leader, his leadership philosophy is that a great leader is passionate, empathetic, flexible and task-oriented, and I have taken that as we hire people in any position,” King said.
In addition to speaking on some of her missions as the athletic director, King mentioned why Durham and Duke are places and communities she enjoys being a part of.
“For me, the answer is simple. Duke is a magical place, the commitment to excellence is unmistakable. And most importantly, the drive and ambition amongst all the Duke students is inspirational. The people in this community are passionate and dedicated. I am proud that Duke athletics plays a significant part in making Duke University so special. Duke is a top-10 institution in the country, a top-25 institution in the world, a pinnacle player in higher education, why not Duke?”
Jake Piazza is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.