Podcast Alert: Nina King – Duke
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[00:00:00] Nina King: You know, for Duke, it’s about maintaining the balance between academics and athletics and our graduation rates are top in the country and our student athletes this past semester, we had 26 of our teams have a 3.0 GPA or better, at Duke, which is pretty incredible. And so that is to us, the most important thing, the educational aspect of it, while competing, while playing sports.
[00:00:47] AJ Maestas: Hello, and welcome to the Navigating Sports Business podcast. I’m your host, AJ Maestas, Founder of Navigate, a data-driven consulting firm, guiding major strategies and decisions in sports and entertainment. We started this [00:01:00] podcast hoping to share the interesting stories and experiences of the amazing people we get to work with that.
And even though they’re visionaries and famous in many instances, their true stories aren’t often heard since they’re not on the playing field. Our hope is you get to know them better and learn from them as we have
Today, I’m happy to be joined by Nina King, Vice President and Director of Athletics at Duke University. Welcome Nina. Thank you for joining.
[00:01:31] Nina King: Thanks for having me, AJ. It’s great to be with you.
[00:01:33] AJ Maestas: It’s great to be with you too. I I’m sure I’m fantasizing this in my mind, so you can correct me, but we were kind of having a lunch and some drinks with Patti Phillips and Christina Turner, Women’s Leaders at the Fiesta Bowl Summit a couple years ago.
And you had to take a call and in our minds, when you walked away, we all said, she’s getting the call to be the Athletic Director at Duke. So is it fact or fiction?
[00:01:55] Nina King: Sort of in between. Yeah, that was a year [00:02:00] ago, last May. And I was in the middle of interviewing for the position. And so while I was there in Phoenix, I had had one last zoom interview with the committee chairs. And so I don’t know, maybe the phone call was getting ready for that interview or something, but I think it was about two weeks later it was announced that I had received the opportunity for this position.
[00:02:22] AJ Maestas: Wow. You did a Zoom. It’s so funny because you’re there on campus all the time.
Right, right. I guess maybe the board is spread out over space. Yeah. I mean, it was kind of the COVID era too. Well, if you don’t mind me sticking on that moment for a second, I’m, there with the ladies for Women Leaders and, you know, it’s sort of a discussion of well let’s hope she’s getting that phone call because as you just reminded me there are six women leading Power Five athletic departments.
And Title IX is 50 years old. So for 50 years the meritocracy, the meritocratic environment that is on the court and field of play and federal legislation is such that just as many women are athletes as [00:03:00] men, hopefully I’m not offending anybody by saying it appears to me that the female athletes tend to be better students you know, more engaged in the full experience of a university.
And yet 90% of athletic directors here, 50 years, 50 years is two generations, plenty of time, right. To sort through intended and unintended consequences. What do you think is going on? Why are 10% of Power Five athletic directors ladies?
[00:03:23] Nina King: I don’t know. Maybe we’re waiting to see if feminism is just a fad or if it’s sticking around 50 years into Title IX.
Listen grateful for Title IX and, and what it’s done for women to have equal opportunities to participate in sport and has certainly created some great opportunities for those of us to then ascend into careers in sport, which has been great. And so, yeah, you know, six, we were seven women at leading Power Five athletic departments until Sandy Barbour retired just this year. So we’re, we’re down to six, which is progress from a few years ago. Baby steps. And so we’re slowly moving [00:04:00] towards progress on that front. And so I’m grateful for this opportunity to be one of the six so that I can certainly continue to pave the way for those that are gonna come after me because there certainly will be more, hopefully coming along with me, not after me after I’ve retired.
But same in terms of people of color as well. So of the six, only three of us are black females. And so we’ve got work to do. And I think all of us understand that we are in these positions, it’s our responsibility to continue to create opportunities, to open doors and, and make sure that we are building our bench and adding to the six.
[00:04:35] AJ Maestas: Well, half of them being women of color or more than that, actually that was just African American, but still small sample size.
It doesn’t feel like progress to me, by the way, 50 years after Title IX, not that Title IX’s intention was to lead to senior business leaders, but it would be encompassed inside of the intention. That doesn’t feel like a ton of progress. I mean, I guess it is technically progress, but it doesn’t feel like what someone would’ve predicted.
If you asked people on that date and you said this law will stay on for 50 [00:05:00] years. Now tell me what the ratio will be. You know, what would this shake out right in like in a sort of open, free market. So, I don’t know I’m I don’t mean to
[00:05:10] Nina King: Yeah, press on her. I, I feel you, but it is where we are. Right. There are six, and so we’ve gotta continue to move forward and, and ensure that we’re building the pipeline.
It really, it starts with our interns and our entry level and it’s assistant coaches and making sure that we’re, we’re developing those folks so that they have opportunities. And when those opportunities arise, they’re prepared to become leaders. So that’s where it’s, it’s on all of us, not just us six women in power five, but on all of us to make sure that it is a critical priority to continue to build our benches and, and build the pipeline so that we can hopefully not too long from now, be sitting here saying there’s so many women leading Power Five athletic departments.
[00:05:53] AJ Maestas: Well, what should we be doing? What should those listening be doing to help with that pipeline? Cause I don’t disagree with you, right? It’s at all [00:06:00] stages. But what should we be doing?
[00:06:02] Nina King: It’s being intentional about our hiring practices. And again, it’s at every level, if we are only hiring white men as interns, of course, who are your senior leaders going to become?
Those white men who eventually climb a ladder. And so we need to be intentional it’s having diverse hiring committees. You know, the, the committees need to represent a variety of backgrounds, women, people of color, et cetera, and then making sure that your pools, your candidate pools include diverse candidates.
And not just for show. I mean, for meaningful conversations, interviews and, and then opportunities. And then when you hire folks, it’s not just kind of tossing them the keys and saying, Hey, good luck. But making sure that we’re onboarding folks in every position and investing in their professional development, we’ll get a great return on our investment if we certainly invest in their professional and personal development while they’re with us in the organization.
So, you know, it starts with hiring. But then it’s [00:07:00] certainly about development and retention and then, you know, not passing over folks for opportunities that they’re they’re well deserving of.
[00:07:08] AJ Maestas: Thank you. I appreciate you sharing that last question on this, I promise I’ll move on from this, but you’ve spent a whole career in collegiate athletics except for a stint at Nike.
And you you’ve worked at your alma mater, notre Dame. Is there anything you can tell me about a glass ceiling? Did you feel that, did you experience it?
[00:07:22] Nina King: Yeah. You know, sometimes I feel bad answering this question because the answer is no. And I’ll tell you why. I haven’t experienced the glass ceiling.
I have been so fortunate to work for people that have been intentional about creating the opportunities for people that look like me. I have been in environments where. Been a non-negotiable priority to focus on diverse staffs and diverse leadership. And so that’s what it’s about, right. I mean, to, to make sure now I’m in this chair, I need to make sure that I am creating and maintaining those inclusive environments and, and [00:08:00] opportunities.
I keep seeing the word opportunities, but it’s true. And so I’ve been, so fortunate, I’ve worked at two institutions and for the same man at both of those institutions, Kevin White the GOAT of college athletics, I would say, college athletic directors. But for him across his entire career, that was a priority to ensure that women and people of color have these opportunities.
And so I’ve been fortunate to benefit from that. And then here at, at Duke our president, my new Boss same. uh, I was marveling I’m sitting at a president’s cabinet meeting where there’s 10 of us, a couple of weeks ago, and six of the 10 of us are women. We’ve got three black women. And so again, it, it starts from the top, from the leadership, making sure that that representation is seen and then that we value our female leadership our people of color, that we value their input, their feedback, their decision making at, at every stage. So I’ve been fortunate where I haven’t really run into situations. I don’t have a story to tell. It’s not a bad thing that I don’t have a story to tell.[00:09:00]
Trust me. I do understand that there are situations where folks have been discounted or treated poorly for arbitrary reasons like race or gender. And, and I am fortunate to not have been in that situation, but certainly place a premium on making sure that I also now in my leadership position, create those environments for the folks that I work with.
[00:09:20] AJ Maestas: Thank you. I appreciate you sharing. Well, I can’t resist and I know this is a little dated, right? We’ve certainly missed the news cycle on this, but your first year as an AD, you have to deal with Coach K legendary basketball coach retiring. I mean, do you mind telling us, how did you find out ? Yeah, let’s start with, how did you find out?
[00:09:38] Nina King: What a first year.
[00:09:40] AJ Maestas: Yeah, yeah. What a first year.
[00:09:41] Nina King: I did. I did already know, you know, I’ve been at Duke for prior to taking on this role 13 years, and working very closely with Kevin White as kind of his, his right hand person. And, and so have been involved in, in a lot of things over 13 years.
And so, Coach K had informed Kevin just prior to my [00:10:00] announcement as, as the incoming AD, and so we had formed an internal search committee and I was a part of that. And we had started conducting interviews and having conversations with candidates and then mid May, my appointment came and I kind of switched from working with the internal search committee to working with Kevin and our president as the incoming AD.
And so just kind of executing the search and completing the hire. And then two weeks after my hire, we announced Coach K’s retirement and, and coach Jon Scheyer as his replacement. So had been involved and, and knew what I was coming into as, as the new athletic director.
[00:10:35] AJ Maestas: I’m sure somebody said something like, if you think about a legendary athletic director and coach retiring, pretty close to in tandem.
Well, tell me what the process is like in that replacement process. Was that destiny, was that predetermined or was there a real full search?
[00:10:52] Nina King: Oh, a hundred percent real full search. I had the benefit of going through a real full search myself. At the kind of, almost same time and [00:11:00] then, and finishing a little bit before this, or before Coach K’s announcement but real full search.
We had Zoom interviews. We were still doing Zoom last may and had Zoom interviews of candidates and had acouple of finalists and really had a lot of conversations and interviews. And we had some consultants, we used a search firm. And so it was from, from top to bottom, a real 100% search.
We had our next coach sitting right here. Not unlike me ascending into the position that, that I did just a few weeks before, but it, you know, the benefits of a search, you talk to a lot of people, you gain a lot of perspectives. We focused on, on a number of, of candidates, not just one going into it.
And so I really feel good. I can stand behind the process and how it played out.
[00:11:45] AJ Maestas: Do you mind me asking what were the criterias that made him the ultimate choice over the field of alternatives?
[00:11:51] Nina King: Yeah. I mean, I don’t know if I wanna say over the field of alternatives, but why he was the choice. I mean, Jon Scheyer is Duke men’s basketball, right?
He was a student athlete [00:12:00] here, a national champion and then a coach and has obviously been mentored by the best over his time as an assistant coach, a proven track record as an assistant coach. He came into the, the interview really, so prepared and really talking a lot about succession and had studied a lot of succession and what worked well, what didn’t and not just for men’s basketball coaches.
I mean, he was talking about army generals and different organizations, CEOs, and succession, and so had really done his homework. That wasn’t, you know, the it factor that that said, okay, this is our guy, but just kind of whole combinations of things. But I was really impressed with the homework that he did and it wasn’t just lip service, if you will, to win the interview.
He really has lived out what he’s studied over the year. Of course we have lots of time now to go with him as our head coach. But, really grateful to have had this year with Coach K still this past year with Coach K still our head coach and Jon Scheyer, [00:13:00] you know, knowing that he was gonna ascend into that position when the season was over.
So he was really able to be right there by Mike’s side throughout the year and taking on a semi head coach role this past year, again, all in preparation for this past April. And I’m just, I’m so happy for him. And for our program how well prepared. He was to take the reins this past April.
And I keep joking with people, shortly after he officially became our Duke men’s basketball head coach. He had secured the number one recruiting class for next year, not this incoming year, cuz he had already secured this incoming year’s number one recruiting class. So you can take him off your prayer list.
He will be just fine. .
[00:13:41] AJ Maestas: Wow. I I, was actually gonna ask about that. I’m sad that I didn’t know that, but I was gonna ask about indicators of that transition. So what you’re saying is the freshman that will enter and be his first set of class where he is the head coach is number one ranked recruit.
[00:13:55] Nina King: Yes.
[00:13:56] AJ Maestas: Wow. Okay. Interesting. Are there any highlights from that [00:14:00] transition process that he brought to that interview with you that, that you are willing to share? You know, practices, maybe it was even things to avoid?
[00:14:07] Nina King: Yeah. I mean, I will just say he’s so mature beyond his years. I mean, sometimes I kept thinking I think of him still as when he was a student athlete here.
Cause I was here when, when he played for Duke and it kept picturing Jon Scheyer, the student athlete, you know, this 18 to 20, 22 year old young man and getting out of my head that image, but how much he’s matured and really what he’s gained in terms of seasoned experience over these past several years, as an assistant coach. He knows what he doesn’t know.
He was putting together his staff and he knew kind of how he needed to structure his staff. Here he is a young, first time head coach. And so who does he need to surround himself with in terms of on-court coaching, but then he’s also built his off-court support staff and really identified some folks, some areas, people with a lot of experience.
He hired a former DI one head coach to be his special assistant kind of his right hand [00:15:00] person off the court to handle a lot of, you know, day to day internal business, if you will. So just really proud of him that, that he is so mature, and was able to really identify what he needed to take off running and, and be successful.
[00:15:14] AJ Maestas: Well, congratulations. It looks like the future’s set pretty well. I mean, you know, we’ll see, but it can’t hurt to have the number one rated recruiting class. That’s a really good sign. And what a career, what a run so close to one of the most magical endings to a career in history. That’s it’s a little tragic, honestly can’t think of a time I really rooted for Duke outside of this year. And that was, that was just so damn close to something really special.
[00:15:38] Nina King: It was, but to make it to the Final Four after the year, I mean the year was kind of full of ups and downs. We started the year and everybody was kinda like, what. Oh, that’s Duke men’s basketball.
They’re gonna go all the way. And then we had some a little bit of a roller coaster and then ultimately finishing ACC, regular season champions, despite the horrible last home game. But you know, really our student athletes really stepped up and [00:16:00] they were able to kind of put out all the distractions, all the noise of the year and, and really compete well during the tournament and to get to the Final Four stinks that we didn’t get to the very, very end and, and be the last program standing, but to get to the Final Four for a historic run in Coach K’s 42nd year was, was pretty darn cool.
[00:16:18] AJ Maestas: 42nd year. Yeah. Wow.
[00:16:19] Nina King: Can you imagine 42 years at one place? Doesn’t happen anymore.
[00:16:24] AJ Maestas: I hope so. I don’t have an intention to retire. So as long as my coworkers don’t force me out as I become less useful.
Hopefully I can say that someday, but yeah, that’s, that’s pretty mind blowing. It doesn’t exist in any field anywhere, anytime. Well, last question about Coach K and the basketball program, but, but I can’t resist from a business perspective, anything we can learn about that, that swan song, what worked really well for you all in all phases of the business of the program.
In his farewell tour let’s call it.
[00:16:53] Nina King: Yeah. You know, what we really did was allow Coach K and staff to focus on coaching this season because it [00:17:00] wasn’t Paulo Banchero’s 42nd season as a Duke men’s basketball player. These student athletes, these you know, 13 guys were here for this moment for this team to compete, to win a championship.
And so we really we kind of, you know, told Coach K and staff, took the pressure off them. Let us worry about everything all on the outside, the noise, the business of it, if you will, and you will focus on coaching this team and what these student athletes are here for. And so then, you know, it was kind of the, the farewell tour organizing, you know, all the celebrations at schools along the way.
And even here at home, our own celebration for our last home game in Cameron with Coach K kind of just keeping track of all of the activity and everything that was happening was a lot. And we’ve got a lot of great support staff here and making sure that it all went really smoothly.
And then the transition, you know, just kind of folks helping manage transition and also still continuing to help Coach K, because he’s not leaving. In fact, when I came in [00:18:00] this morning, his. car was in the parking lot. He is retired from coaching, but staying on at Duke as an ambassador. And so how fortunate is Duke that, that we still get to benefit from this icon day in, day out.
And so working with the university, not just athletics. But to continue on as an ambassador here at Duke. We are in entering into a development campaign in, in the next couple of years and celebrating Duke’s Centennial a hundred years as a university. And so I’m sure coach will be put to work on the development front, but a lot of different things that we can use him for, because the, I mean, he is Duke and Duke is coach K right.
His brand and, and what it’s done for our university. And so really just looking forward to continuing to work with him.
[00:18:41] AJ Maestas: What is that development campaign going to do? Do you mind sharing? uh,
[00:18:45] Nina King: Yeah. I mean, we’re still structuring it. We’re still architects designing what it is, it will kick off here in the next, I think it’s 18 months.
And so we’re right now in the phase where for athletics we’re building our goals, putting numbers to goals [00:19:00] and, and figuring out what it is that we wanna raise. Our last campaign, we focused a lot on facilities and we were able to raise money to renovate our football stadium. We put an addition on Cameron on the outside of Cameron.
Be able to build a performance center and athletic training for all of our Olympic sports. So this campaign, the idea is that we wanna focus on endowment and really setting up our budget to you know, kind of relieve, operating pressure, if you will, and create more endowments to spin off some money for our coaches to be able to utilize for their programs, continue to, to build their programs.
So the biggest part for us athletics will be on endowment and then we’ll continue. I mean, you’re never done on facilities, right. So we’ll continue to, to create a, a plan for renovating and enhancing or our existing building infrastructure as well.
[00:19:48] AJ Maestas: Okay. Last question about basketball specifically.
But not Coach K necessarily. There’s all these legends that just retired and, you know, you know, there’s a cynical theory out there, right? That this is related to name, image, likeness, [00:20:00] transfer portal. It’s just like, ah, you know, what do I wanna be a part of this is this what I signed up for? I’ve heard many athletic directors and coaches basically say, you know, this is not why I do, what I do.
If I wanted to do this, I’d be in the NBA or NFL or something along those lines. And I’m, I’m thinking of giant names, right? Coach K, Roy Williams, Jay Wright. Do you think there’s any truth to this?
[00:20:20] Nina King: You know, I mean maybe, but I will say, you know, I don’t wanna pick weeds in anybody’s garden. But potentially listen, 42 years.
At what point has this guy earned the right to say, I wanna enjoy my garden. I don’t want to work you know, 12 months a year travel constantly, recruiting constantly, camps, et cetera, all that goes into, it’s not just coaching 30 basketball games one season. I mean, it’s, it’s so much that goes into it.
Building a team and, and coaching the team and, you know, Coach K as he aged, I thought what he did really well was continue to kind of reinvent himself so that he’s still relatable to these 18 to 22 [00:21:00] year old student athletes. So at some point I have to say, okay, step back. I wanna be a 74 year old man enjoying my garden.
Right. And so, yeah, you know, did all of the complexities of college athletics, what we look like today, the uncertainty of what we might look like tomorrow, did that come into play? Probably. And so if you have the opportunity to kind of take a step back and enjoy life, family, grandkids, all of that shoot, I would too.
[00:21:26] AJ Maestas: Yeah, I don’t disagree with that. I understand that. Well, how about your opinion on things like name, image, and likeness and the transfer portal and, you know, autonomy from the NCAA? We’ve had a ton of athletic directors and conference commissioners on here. So forgive me for asking the same question yet again, but I would love your perspective on that.
What do you think? New normal?
[00:21:44] Nina King: Are we here for like three more hours, at least?
Or let me just say what he said or what she said because, I mean, I think we all agree that where we are [00:22:00] is unsustainable that we’ve got a, a broken model. But not quite sure how to get to where this thing is functioning properly. Right. How do we eliminate all of the dysfunction? So lots of ideas and conversations happening.
We’ve got the NCAA transformation committee that we’re hoping comes out with something meaningful and, and some reform here around NCAA governance. But just not, not quite sure. not, not quite sure if it, if it’s gonna get there. I mean, this thing, the train is moving down the track so fast. I mean, NIL is a perfect example.
We knew that we were gonna get there last July 1st, that we were gonna have NIL but we really quickly got to July 1st and had no guardrails, no rules the wild west in terms of, you know, state laws and institutional policies and just kind of all over the place. And then, you know, we’re always trying to get a competitive advantage over one another.
And so NIL morphed into craziness [00:23:00] one year later and now we’re all still kind of saying what the heck it’s still the wild west, but of course it still is the unintended consequences we all saw coming. When we walk into something as big as this and, and as different as this with no guardrails around it.
And so now of course, we’re pushing for federal legislation and trying to get Congress to come in and help us so we can be on an even playing field. But what terrifies me, you know, we invite Congress in to regulate this, NIL and then they’re gonna help themselves to kind of help us regulate, fill in the blank whatever else.
And is that really what we want? It’s all a bit of a mess. It continues to be, I mean we were in a mess a year ago, but what I am confident in is that college athletics is not going away. We’re going to look different, change is okay. And you know, we do have good people at the table trying to, to figure this thing out.
So we need good, strong leadership. We need the NCAA to step up and help us out here. And at the end of the day, [00:24:00] continue to provide these really meaningful elite, high level experiences for students to come to college and realize their dreams around sport, participate in the sports that they love.
Have opportunities to win championships, conference championships, national championships, and graduate from an institution with a degree that’s gonna go and help them in life. And so it’s all absolutely crazy. We have no idea what’s happening and it’s uncertain. But at the end of the day, if we keep student athletes and their best interests at the forefront were going to be okay.
That’s the optimist in me.
[00:24:35] AJ Maestas: I don’t disagree. I appreciate it. There was a two year notice on it, name, image, and likeness coming along. Right. So there’s a pretty incredible lack of leadership or centralized control to lead to that situation. So I just, it’s not that I have a bone to pick, you know what I mean?
We can all complain. Who’s gonna bring us the solution, but the idea that Congress is gonna bring solutions to college athletics that it’s even a priority to, or that you would like in you being college athletics, not you Nina, right? Right. [00:25:00] Would would like what they’re gonna say? You know, it feels pretty clear what they’d say is that we don’t trust you to do the right thing. You’ve proven, unable to lead.
I generally believe, and plenty of people will disagree that they’re just gonna throw open the doors to, you know, a free market. All it takes is one state to say, you can be an employee, you can collectively bargain, you can unionize.
And the states aren’t gonna sit around and let their schools be at a disadvantage and just fall like dominoes. So I bring that up just in case that sparks anything for you, because Duke is one of these rare institutions and your alma mater Notre Dame would be one of those, Stanford, where it’s really hard to picture them getting into a world where it’s a licensed semi-pro model.
Where they’re ever gonna really divorce themselves from the whole academic student athlete experience, but I think there’s plenty of schools that would line up for that or that would do so at the risk of, I mean, these are, you know, even university presidents and athletic directors are at some level at political risk, you know, you have different constituencies and stakeholders you serve than just profit and winning [00:26:00] on the court.
So it just feels like to me, and I hope you’re willing to comment on this, but it just feels to me like that is as likely as an outcome as putting the toothpaste back in the tube and getting anywhere near what used to look like our idea of amateurism here in the U.S.
[00:26:13] Nina King: Again, are we here for a few more hours?
Yeah. You know, I don’t think we can solve this in that amount a time. But, for Duke, it’s about maintaining the balance between academics and athletics, right? The entertainment and the academic piece of it. And so we are, I mean, our graduation rates are top in the country and our student athletes are doing well in school here. This past semester we had 26 of our teams have a 3.0 GPA or better, at Duke which is pretty incredible. And so that is to us the most important thing, the educational aspect of it while competing, while playing sports. Right. So how do we maintain the balance? And I completely get it.
That’s not every [00:27:00] Division I institution’s philosophy going into college athletics and who we are and what do we stand for? So I will say is as the enterprise collegiate athletics enterprise continues to morph and find its way and change into the next iteration, for Duke, we’re gonna continue to hold high, the value of an education.
You know, it’s, it’s interesting. We talk about, you know, potentially student athletes becoming employees and everything that goes with that. I don’t know. Were you student athlete?
[00:27:30] AJ Maestas: A couple years of a failed baseball attempt.
[00:27:34] Nina King: Okay. Well, at least you tried. So I was not a student athlete, right. So I went to Notre Dame, grew up in with a single mom who worked her ass off to pay for so much for me.
But education was extremely important and getting a really good education was extremely important to both of us. I had to take out so many student loans between undergrad and then I went to law school. I didn’t want my poor mom to help me pay for three more years of private education. And so [00:28:00] it took me forever to pay off my student loans from undergrad and law school.
So a student athlete, that’s coming to Duke again, not pulling weeds in anybody else’s garden, but what I do know at Duke, we had a grad student several years ago kind of do a cost analysis of a four year full scholarship student athlete and the benefits that they’re receiving while they’re here.
So. Now this year, it costs $80,000 per year for full cost of attendance, right? Tuition, room, and board books cost of attendance, et cetera, 80,000 a pop. And then you add in academic tutoring and academic advising, you add in the medical, the training room trips and all of the surgeries and benefits around medical care for being a student athlete. Traveling plane trips, hotels.
Food, all the meals that we provide. Now we can provide the bagels and cream cheese and you know, all of the extra. So adding all of that up, and this was probably 5, 8 years ago, I would say was $500,000 for [00:29:00] four years. That’s the benefit that a student athlete is receiving. And I don’t think we talk about that enough.
You know, we’re, we’re talking about potential unionization and should student athletes be employees. Well, so then are they gonna pay taxes? And is there overtime and is there, you know we can hire and fire you, just all of the things that go into labor and employment, or do we wanna talk about the benefits of you being a student athlete, receiving a Duke education and not just the education, but kind of everything else that goes with it?
I just don’t think we talk about it enough. I don’t know how we got here. Oh, sorry. But it’s something that I’m really passionate about. Kind of having lived in both being a non student athlete myself and now living in this world and, you know, we’re running a business here in athletics encapsulated in the non-profit academia, but running a small business here.
And all of the benefits that a student athlete can realize from that, we just don’t talk about it enough. Again, all of the benefits and [00:30:00] all of the things that we’re doing for all of our student athletes, you know, all 750 male, female. At what point is that enough and your education, and then, like you said, you go out and you become global citizens and have these amazing jobs because of your Duke education.
[00:30:18] AJ Maestas: I think there will always be people who would choose Duke in this new world scenario. Even if Duke didn’t keep up with compensation in that way, but there’s a bunch of other places where it just wouldn’t be true.
Alright. Well, I won’t beat a dead horse here. My apologies on that, but slightly controversial question again, gambling, you know college football’s the second, tied for second, most popular thing to gamble on. I think college basketball’s fifth. We at Navigate see it as just, it’s coming. There’s a lot of money, a lot of benefits, you know, to it.
Fandom, cross team viewing interest, even the data would allow you to better watch. If you think nefarious things are taking place. So now I just gave you the pitch on why I think it should be happening in college athletics. But maybe tell me why not, because it’s not legal yet in North [00:31:00] Carolina.
But I would predict it’s coming and I would predict that the overwhelming majority of conferences and universities will sign deals and be doing business in the space. How do you feel about it? How do you personally see it?
[00:31:10] Nina King: Yeah, like you said, it’s not legal in North Carolina, but I mean, I don’t even know where we are now.
How many states it is legal. I feel like every day, a few more come online. So it’s certainly something that is probably coming. But it won’t be a dramatic change in some ways, since we already deal with it because we are playing in states where gambling is legal. So that is one that in terms of what we’re doing here at Duke to prepare, it’s focusing on education, especially in sports that are frequently involved.
And for us, it’s probably our most high profile sport in men’s basketball. Warning our student athletes about providing information that’s valuable to bettors. The ACC does have a partner that monitors betting lines to look for unusual activity. So we’re always adjusting programming for our student athletes and, and trying to determine what [00:32:00] resources we need to provide and will prepare because I do think that there is a bill in the North Carolina state legislature right now that just hasn’t passed. So we continue to prepare and monitor that legislative activity so that we’re ready. If it does pass.
[00:32:14] AJ Maestas: Anything, I didn’t ask that I should have?
[00:32:17] Nina King: No. I mean that the focus for the month is celebrating Title IX.
I can’t hammer that home enough, just how exciting it is to have the 50th anniversary celebration. Here, this June, I think we all need to commit to making progress a priority. And continue to focus on creating opportunities for women and people of color across all facets of our business and administration.
You know, we didn’t talk too much about coaches, but creating opportunities for coaches as well. Love that we’ve got you know, a female women’s basketball head coach here at Duke in Kara Lawson. I think we’re seeing numbers start to go down in terms of female coaches coaching female sports and really need to kind of [00:33:00] wrap our heads around why that is and making sure that that, again, we’re creating opportunities.
So can never put in a plug too much for diverse, equity, and inclusion.
[00:33:13] AJ Maestas: Yeah. And that’s a heck of a hire by the way, for people who don’t know Kara Lawson, she worked for ESPN, she was a former WNBA all-star, a champion, coached with the Boston Celtics. So someone who’d actually did done the opposite of what you’re describing, right. As opposed to men coaching women, in college athletics.
Yeah, that was pretty cool. And it is a very good point. You’re seeing that with women’s basketball, softball, even volleyball, healthy amount of men coaching those teams. It’s pretty, pretty interesting. Well, Jack Petrides on my team would be upset with me if I didn’t say Roll Wave, he’s a big Tulane guy and a basketball guy, by the way.
So we didn’t wanna fail to give your JD some time and attention.
[00:33:45] Nina King: Thank you.
[00:33:46] AJ Maestas: I got a couple rapid fire questions just so everybody can get to know you better here before we wrap up. Okay. Cool. Favorite place to travel.
[00:33:52] Nina King: Ooh, toss up between Italy and Greece.
[00:33:56] AJ Maestas: Wow. Great choices. No complaints there very wise I think. [00:34:00] If you could have a dinner guest living or dead, anyone throughout history throughout time who would be your special dinner guest?
[00:34:05] Nina King: I would say Michelle Obama. And she can bring Barack to if she wants, but
[00:34:10] AJ Maestas: ha ha ha. She can bring the former President, but it’s really about Michelle.
[00:34:15] Nina King: It is.
[00:34:15] AJ Maestas: Can I ask why?
[00:34:15] Nina King: What a superstar. I mean just the way that she has handled with grace and integrity, her time in the white house. For all of us to be able to watch so publicly, but she’s such an accomplished mom, professional, career woman, lawyer just she’s just she’s so, she seems so cool. I’m talking about her. Like I know her, but so I would love to sit and have dinner with her and get to know her.
Oh, I do have to tell you. Okay, so you wanted stories. I do have a, a President Obama story. He came to Duke to watch the Duke Carolina game back when we had Zion Williamson, and when Zion blew his shoe out. And so I went and I met with him during halftime and the game was midweek. I can’t remember what day, President’s Day week.
So that [00:35:00] Monday my kids celebrated President’s Day in school. And at the time I had a five year old kindergartener and his teacher was talking about President Obama and how he was our first mixed race President that his dad is black and his mom was white. And my son Austin stood up and said, I’m all mixed up too. And Austin has a black mom and a white dad. And so I told President Obama this story, and I got that like gutty, Barack laugh. It was so fantastic. It was so much fun. And so he asked me, he said, well, can I sign something for Austin? I didn’t have anything. We were at halftime of a game. I didn’t have anything for him to sign, but just his laugh was good enough for me.
So there’s a fun story.
[00:35:44] AJ Maestas: That’s so cool. That’s very cool.
[00:35:47] Nina King: I still wanna have dinner with Michelle though.
[00:35:49] AJ Maestas: Ah, you know, I’ll follow up on that. You know, there’s all these people who help you in the beginning of your career. And there’s this guy named Robert Blackwell who had prime, A+ real estate, this building, an office space [00:36:00] in downtown Chicago and he became a friend and he basically said, move out of your house with this startup you’re doing Navigate. And I’ll barely charge you rent. And he did exactly that. And he only asked for me for one thing ever, which ended up being a gift of course, was really involved in the sort of black democratic party, you know, like sort of inner circle guy there in Chicago, where I lived at the time.
He basically said, hey you wanna do this charity dinner thing with me? There’s this politician I want to support. I said, ah, not a huge fan of politics, please, no. He’s like, I’ve never asked you for anything. So I’m sort of like, okay. Yeah. Okay. I guess I’ll be making a donation, but anyway, that was, of course. Barack Obama. So I got to go to this dinner and meet them and all that kind of good stuff, long before he was who he is today. And I wish I could transfer that to you because I didn’t even want it. It was just a gift from somebody who had already given me a gift. Right. But very cool. Okay. Greatest piece of advice you have ever received.
[00:36:51] Nina King: Ooh, this is a good one I shared at my press conference last year. So Kevin White always told me, treat people the way that you wanna be treated. You know, [00:37:00] I’d come into his office and we’d have to make a tough decision. And he would just remind me, treat people the way that you wanna be treated.
And so I said that last year, and the reporter that asked me the question said, yeah, but you must have learned that from your parents growing up. Right. They said, of course the golden rule I did learn from my mom certainly. But it was just, it was so reinforced in my professional life from my mentor and, and boss, Kevin White, and it’s certainly something that I preach to our staff as well.
You know, when we’re having to make tough decisions, just remember treat people the way that you want to be treated.
[00:37:32] AJ Maestas: Very cool. Very cool. Well, I’m, I’m so proud of you and happy for you. It’s pretty exceptional. I, as a student manager, going back to your Notre Dame days, I’m sure it seems possibly inconceivable you’d be in such an amazing place and doing such wonderful things, but I’m happy that you are, as you know, those ladies that were at lunch with you and I. You know have celebrated many times your ascendancy to this position in this role, and I know you do really good things with it. So congratulations, and I’m super grateful that [00:38:00] you shared yourself with us here today.
[00:38:02] Nina King: Yeah, thank you. It was great chatting with you and we’ll have to do a few more hours another time.
[00:38:06] AJ Maestas: Yeah, I’m ready. At worst when you come back out this way to Scottsdale for the Fiesta Bowl Summit. But yeah, anytime my time is yours.
For folks listening to us. If you have any questions or comments, I have a feeling Nina would answer these too. If you have something for her, just email me at AJ@NVGT.com. You can also reach us on our LinkedIn page, my personal or the Navigate. Nina. Were you gonna add something to that? I thought you might
have stopped me for.
[00:38:27] Nina King: Oh, no, all good. I’ll email you some questions for your next guest.
[00:38:32] AJ Maestas: Okay, good. I like that. Well, again, this is AJ. Maestas joined by Nina King of Duke, thank you for joining us on Navigating Sports Business.