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Blue Ribbon Tips, College Sports

Blue Ribbon Tips: Lynn W. Thompson (Bethune-Cookman University)

Buckner continues its Blue Ribbon Tips series with insight from Lynn W. Thompson, Bethune-Cookman University Director of Athletics. A Blue Ribbon Tips post contains best practices, strategies and tips for administrators from sports and higher-education professionals.

Mr. Thompson highlighted several issues that he believes will be important for athletics programs to consider in the immediate future:

1. Future (Five-Year) Issues or Trends in College Sports: “I firmly believe that a vast majority of the issues that will shape the new landscape of intercollegiate athletics in the immediate future will be student-athlete welfare concerns followed by academic points that will strike at the heart of the missions of colleges and universities around the nation. For instance, healthcare and cost of living issues are at the forefront of the discussion amongst the Power 5 conferences and the provision of benefits to elite student-athletes will create a caste system so to speak of universities capable of funding such a venture. The lines of demarcation will be blurred and mid-major universities, conferences and even smaller institutions will find themselves drawn into an arms race if they want to attempt to be competitive with those unlimited resource institutions. Clearly healthcare, insurance and other economic related causes do in fact have an ability to negatively impact a student-athlete during the matriculation process and all of them individually or combined can jeopardize the academic success of our young people. Institutions like Bethune-Cookman have for decades mastered the process of caring for, mentoring and transforming students and student-athletes from various socioeconomic backgrounds into great success stories an undoubtedly we will be forced to re-invent ourselves to keep pace. Institutionally our goal is to always strive to become the best Bethune-Cookman we can be.”

2. Changes to the Athletic Director Position: “The entire industry has evolved. For decades, former coaches were promoted from the fields and courts to the offices and their experiences were well suited to managing various sports programs. Back then, athletic departments were viewed as slightly more than upgraded physical education and intramural programs. I was fortunate to begin my career as an athletic director with experience in fundraising and media. My learning curb consisted of a crash course in sport specific nuances and NCAA rules and I was able to utilize an array of creative ideas to position our program for growth. Nowadays athletic programs have become franchises and business entities that require a corporate structure patterned after professional sports teams or major corporations. Our program today consists of divisions that handle sports medicine, strength and conditioning, academic support, compliance services and media as well as marketing and promotions. The director of athletics position is now an executive level position with oversight of all of those areas.”

3. Your Basic Philosophy for the Athletics Department: “My entire career as an athletic director has been at a faith based university where the institutional mission permeates every aspect of the campus. As I travel the country at industry meetings I speak often on management philosophies and mine has evolved over the course of my career. Because of the nature of the business of intercollegiate athletics most programs adopt a ‘corporate approach’ which focuses on the bottom line in revenues and expenditures as well as wins and losses. The pressure continues to mount as the bar is constantly raised and many times the ability to impact people and transform lives is lost in the corporate philosophy of profit and losses and as a result people become disposable and their value is diminished. At Bethune-Cookman University we utilize a ‘congregational approach’ where everyone has a sacred value and their effectiveness is predicated on their ability to transform lives while building a championship program with integrity and passion. Effective leaders are in disposable and everyone has value to the common goal. Through this approach we are able to build a consensus and continuity while continuing to focus on our ultimate goals of success in athletic competition, academic progress and business.”

Lynn W. Thompson Biography

Twenty-two years ago, Lynn W. Thompson, a Daytona Beach native and Bethune-Cookman graduate, began his career as the youngest NCAA Division I athletic director in the nation. Since then, he has played a vital role on campus at Bethune-Cookman University, at the conference level, and now is the senior statesman amongst MEAC and HBCU athletic directors, and serves nationally as a committee chair and well sought after leader for input on various NCAA committees.

As the first African-American to chair the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee and as a member on the NCAA I-AA Football Committee and the NCAA Football Issues Committees, Thompson has vast experience in creating policy for intercollegiate athletics on a national level. He has also served the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference as chairman of the MEAC Basketball and Baseball Tournaments, and has been selected five times as an NCAA Peer Reviewer for the athletics certification process.

During his tenure overseeing a 17-sport department that is known throughout the nation, Thompson has directed the Wildcats to a total of 50 championships, beginning with 35 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference crowns, including a dynasty of twelve baseball championships in the past thirteen years; a run of five straight softball titles from 2000-2004 with a current streak of three years, and the 2002 and 2010 football championship, the latter garnering the University’s first-ever national HBCU championship. In addition, B-CU’s golf program has won 15 PGA National Minority Golf Championship (10 women, 5 men) titles, featuring an international roster. B-CU track & field has trained an indoor/outdoor NCAA hurdling champion, and were represented by the Wildcats’ first ever Olympian in the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Under Thompson’s leadership, Wildcat teams have also fared well in NCAA postseason appearances including the 2005 softball Regional Championship in Gainesville, Florida, advancing to the NCAA Super Regional in Austin, Texas after receiving the first-ever at-large bid to the Women’s College World Series. In 2002, the baseball team won its first regional game against Florida International.

Away from the athletic fields, Thompson is heavily involved in the B-CU Fellowship of Christian Athletes, where his office is constantly open for prayer and consultation with all students. He served as a staff pastor at Calvary Christian Center in Ormond Beach, Florida, for over 10 years in addition to leading the men’s ministry.

Thompson graduated from then Bethune-Cookman College in 1980 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Pre-Med and later earned a Master’s Degree from Clark-Atlanta University in 1984. He went on to embark on a mass communications career that has spanned more than 30 years. For many years, he hosted the public affairs show “Vibrations” on WESH-TV, an NBC affiliate based out of Orlando, Florida. He continues to produce and host the regional television and radio shows highlighting Bethune-Cookman University athletics on Sun Sports Network.

He is married to Dr. Michelle D. Thompson, a noted author and Dean of the Freshman College at Bethune-Cookman University. They are proud parents of Matthew David, a student-athlete at The Citadel, and Lyndsay Olga, a junior at Spruce Creek High School. Tai Lynne, the oldest child in the Thompson family, is a graduate of Florida State University and is pursuing a career as an actress.

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About Michael L. Buckner, Esquire

An attorney who provides clients with internal investigation, civil litigation, estate planning and compliance services.

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