As 2021 comes to a close, The Chronicle's sports department takes a look back at the biggest stories of the year in Duke athletics. Each day, we will review a major game, event or storyline that helped shape the course of the year for the Blue Devils.
Coming in at No. 2: Nina King is hired as Duke's next athletic director, replacing the now-retired Kevin White. For the full list, click here.
Duke named a new athletic director this spring in the department’s senior deputy director of athletics for administration and legal affairs and chief of staff, Nina King.
President Vincent Price announced that King would succeed Kevin White May 19. The announcement came just over four months after White announced that he would be retiring Sept. 1 after serving as vice president and director of athletics for 13 years.
Though this role was new for King, the new athletic director was no stranger to Duke at the time—having been with the University since 2008. She handled the work behind the scenes for the Rubenstein-Bing ACE program, which sends student-athletes from Duke and Stanford on annual global summer service trips. King was also in association with her predecessor, White, as the two co-teach a course in sports business at the Fuqua School of Business. Additionally, in her previous position, she carried out a laundry list of administrative tasks, such as overlooking operations throughout all athletic programs and serving as the primary contact to communicate with university administration.
The search for a replacement for White proved challenging at times, with a need to hire an impactful successor who could live up to the legacy he left behind. During White's tenure, the Blue Devils garnered eight national and 30 ACC championships. White also prompted the creation of the department’s 27th varsity sport, softball, which serves as an avenue for further opportunities for women in athletics. Plus, he stuck by former football coach David Cutcliffe as the latter built an eventual winning program, and hired both women’s basketball head coach Kara Lawson and softball head coach Marissa Young.
Duke launched a national search for White’s successor, but ultimately decided King was the suitable choice—having already been a part of the Blue Devil family while also bringing along with her one of the most impressive resumés in the sporting world.
King has a bachelor’s degree in accountancy from the University of Notre Dame, a law degree from Tulane and previously served as the director of rules education for Notre Dame athletics before she left for Duke in 2008. Besides her work and educational experience, King has received honors such as being named a part of Adidas’s 2016 “Next Up” class, Sports Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 Class of 2018, leaders Under 40 Class of 2018 and Sports Business Journal’s leading power players in college sports in 2019.
Across the sports world, the announcement was met with wide acclaim. The NCAA's Senior Vice President of men’s basketball, Dan Gavitt, NCAA Vice President for women's basketball, Lynn Holzman, many other top athletic directors and the United States Olympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland, Trinity ’97, among others, expressed their praise towards the decision to hire King.
In becoming Duke’s next athletic director in September, King also made history for the department as both the first female and the first Black athletic director at Duke. She is now one of three Black female athletic directors in a Power Five conference, along with Vanderbilt’s Candice Storey Lee and Virginia’s Carla Williams.
Though King has only operated at the role for nearly four months, her impact on Duke athletics has already been profuse. Under King’s leadership, Duke acquired the highly-respected Mike Elko as the Blue Devils’ new head football coach, replacing Cutcliffe after the team went 0-8 in the conference this year—an even worse slate than its 1-9 ACC record last season.
Having been handed one of college athletics’ most successful programs, it’s clear that with King in charge, each of Duke’s athletic teams has the chance to succeed.
READ MORE on King's appointment as Duke's newest athletic director:
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Ana Young is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle’s 118th volume.