NACWAA Rebrands as Women Leaders in College Sports and Celebrates Women Leaders at All Levels

February 21, 2017
Rachel DeSchepper, Women Leaders in College Sports
[email protected]

KANSAS CITY, MO—The National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators (NACWAA), the nation’s premier athletic leadership organization, announces today that it’s unveiling a new name: Women Leaders in College Sports.

The name—which is complemented by a new website, and refreshed brand identity—is the culmination of a yearlong effort to develop a stronger name that more clearly demonstrates the organization’s mission: to develop and advance women leaders at all levels of intercollegiate athletics.

“Whenever you have to spend time explaining who you are,” says Women Leaders in College Sports CEO Patti Phillips, “it takes away from engaging people in what you do. NACWAA was a bit of a mouthful; it didn’t adequately show anyone inside or outside of our industry what we do and who we are, and as we have grown, many members found the words limiting and not specific to them. In short, we evolved beyond what our name stated.” 

The long and intentional process of choosing a new name involved the NACWAA board of directors, the National Office team in Kansas City, marketing agency Global Prairie, and focus groups made up of selected members. The goal in the naming process was to never stray from the organization’s core—intercollegiate athletics—but to be more inclusive of the growing and diverse membership made up of women at all levels, and in varying departments, of intercollegiate athletics. 

"This great organization has experienced enormous growth and influence within intercollegiate athletics,” says Women Leaders in College Sports President Vicky Chun, Vice President and Director of Athletics at Colgate University. “Having a new name and logo, which describes who we are and what we do, is a natural and exciting part of this progression.”

Chun continues, “The need and support for female leadership has never been more vital than it is now, and Women Leaders in College Sports has a proven track record to fulfill this need within the college sports industry and beyond.”

The growth and influence is reflected in the numbers: In 2012, for instance, 19 women advanced into an athletic director, conference commissioner, or other athletic leadership roles. In 2016, thanks in part to the work of Women Leaders in College Sports (NACWAA), 37 women advanced into an athletic director, conference commissioner, or other athletic leadership roles, a 105% increase. Of those 37, seven were women of color.

This past winter, women athletic directors and Women Leaders in College Sports members led two of the top five college football programs: Jennifer Cohen’s University of Washington Huskies were ranked #4, the Pac-12 champs, and competed at  the Peach Bowl; Sandy Barbour’s Penn State Nittany Lions were ranked #5, the Big Ten champs, and competed at the Rose Bowl. Plus, Women Leaders in College Sports member Kathy Beauregard’s Western Michigan Broncos were ranked #15, the Mid-American Conference champs, and competed in the Cotton Bowl.

“But there’s still work to be done,” says Phillips, “Our new name will position the organization’s members for further growth and development.”

Women Leaders’ (shortened without an acronym) programming, membership benefits, and events will not change with the new name, including the NCAA/Women Leaders slate of joint programming: Women’s Leadership SymposiumInstitute for Administrative AdvancementLeadership Enhancement Institute, and Executive Institute. The Women Leaders National Convention will be held in Dallas, October 8-10, 2017. 

Says NCAA President Mark Emmert: “NACWAA has shared the NCAA’s goal of making college sports more inclusive of people from all backgrounds and has been vital in creating a platform to support and promote women throughout the ranks of college athletics. While the organization may be taking on a new name, I am excited for the work it will continue to do in the future—promoting Women Leaders in College Sports.”

About Women Leaders in College Sports

 Founded in 1979, Women Leaders in College Sports (formerly NACWAA; is the only nationally recognized collegiate professional membership organization whose mission is to enhance and promote opportunities for women in intercollegiate athletics administration and beyond. More than 3,500 members strong, Women Leaders promotes the growth, leadership, and success of women as athletics administrators, conference commissioners, professional staff, coaches, and student-athletes. Follow Women Leaders in College Sports on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube .

 Other helpful links:

Women Leaders in College Sports brand guidelines 
Women Leaders in College Sports FAQs
#WeAreWomenLeaders social media posts