An unconventional pick for unique university

Is a sports marketing exec who’s never run a college program just what Vanderbilt needs?

By Tom Wood

One precious mentor Malcolm Turner has known all of his life. Another was part of his life for an all-too-brief span.

But there is no question both have been important role models in helping determine what Turner, 47, hopes to accomplish as Vanderbilt’s new athletics director.

It is Turner’s first foray into collegiate athletics administration and comes at a pivotal moment in time for Vanderbilt, which faces numerous questions on a range of issues from potential coaching changes to waning attendance, from facilities to fundraising.

Nevertheless, Turner appears to be a perfect fit for Vandy because of his strong sports business career and a superlative educational background. He was named to the position in early December and began Feb. 1, replacing the late David Williams II, who announced his retirement in September and unexpectedly died Feb. 8 at age 71. Williams was the SEC’s first black athletic director.

Turner and Williams had a number of conversations during those few months of transition and breakfasted together on Turner’s first day on the job.

“I kind of insisted on the way I wanted to start my day was with him and, in part, thank him for his partnership already at that point, but also to talk about some things that were important to him,” Turner says of that morning’s meeting with Williams.

“I made the point that I wanted to build on the great work that he had already put in place, and it was just important for me in a lot of reasons.”

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