Konya named Athletic Director of the year

Oakland University Director of Athletics Jeff Konya has been named among the 2016-17 Under Armour Athletics Directors of the Year. The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) made the announcement on Thursday, March 2. Konya was one of four athletic directors selected in Division I-AAA.

Konya came to Oakland in 2014 after spending time as the athletic director for the California State University, Bakersfield’s athletic department.

“I started investigating when the job became available in 2014,” Konya said. “I thought that a lot of the things that I do well could really translate to Oakland. I thought that it would be a great job and a great fit for myself personally.”

The branding

Since coming to Oakland, Konya has led the Golden Grizzlies to unprecedented success. On his first day of the job, he hosted a brainstorming session with faculty, staff, alumni, donors and students to discuss how to further develop Oakland Athletics. Konya then took that feedback and focused on the branding of the Oakland’s athletic department. He launched the #WeartheBear marketing campaign and developed an idea to create three unique floor designs and have fans vote on them for Oakland’s next basketball court. After over 10,000 votes, the Blacktop was built in time for the 2015-2016 season.

One of Konya’s most important projects was developing an ethos, or statement of belief, for the department. By collaborating with Athletics administration for almost a year, the ethos was finally set.

“The ethos is really a byproduct of trying to make a statement for our culture,” Konya said. “We needed to understand what our core strengths were and what we wanted to be the end product of the experience and all those kinds of things.”

The experience

In addition to working on the Golden Grizzlies’ branding, Konya wanted to enhance the student-athlete experience. One way he has achieved this goal is through the creation of the Black and Gold Awards.

At the end of every school year, the awards are hosted at the Fox Theatre in downtown Detroit. The BGAs were designed to showcase student-athletes’ stories and accomplishments. 

“It’s fantastic to get out and do the Black and Gold Awards and tell the stories and hear about these great successes that some people may not even know about,” Konya said. “I think it’s going to keep growing. It’s going to be on TV this year, so there’s a lot of interest in it, a lot of interest in Oakland Athletics and the Golden Grizzlies.”

Many student-athletes have experienced the positive effects of having Konya as the athletic director. Senior volleyball player and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee President, Breann Reveley, feels that Konya is “most deserving of this award.”

“[Konya] has transformed our athletic enterprise,” Reveley said. “He’s very passionate, and knowing that your AD is doing everything in his power to go above and beyond to make your experience as a student-athlete the best it can be is so rewarding. It just makes you want to do better for the athletic enterprise.”

The future of Oakland Athletics

Although Konya has achieved a lot during his time at Oakland, he still believes there is more to improve.

“I think the biggest thing that we need to look at is our facilities,” Konya said. “A couple of our facilities are behind our competitors’, and hopefully we’ll be able to get a couple of these facilities online that will really transform Oakland Athletics moving forward.”

Konya wants to continue moving the department forward. He knows Oakland has the potential to become a top athletic program.

“In athletics, you can’t stay still because your competition’s trying to catch you,” Konya said. “We’ve had a lot of wins, a lot of successes over the past few years, but we know that we need to keep pushing the envelope. Part of our ethos is to be innovative and forward-thinking, so it’s kind of always on the front end of our minds to try and push the envelope, so we can stay clear of our competition to the best of our ability.”

The NACDA acknowledges athletic directors for their commitment and positive contributions to student-athletes, campuses and their surrounding communities. An awards celebration will take place Tuesday, June 13 at the NACDA Convention in Orlando, Florida.