DETROIT — Robert C. Vowels, NCAA Vice President of Membership and Student-Athlete Affairs, has been named Director of Athletics at University of Detroit Mercy. The announcement was made today at a press conference by UDM President Dr. Antoine M. Garibaldi. Vowels will oversee the 19 men’s and women’s athletic teams in the University’s Division I intercollegiate athletic program.
Vowels served as Commissioner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference in 2004-05. While at the SWAC, Vowels revised the conference’s strategic plan, compliance programs, championships and corporate alliance programs to make them more efficient and effective. In 2004-05 he also negotiated a multi-year media agreement with ESPN/ESPNU on behalf of the SWAC. He worked with ESPN and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) to develop the concept of the initial MEAC-SWAC Challenge.
Vowels also served as Commissioner of the Division II Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC). During his time at SIAC, Vowels oversaw the expansion of the conference to 11 institutions and negotiated the first multi-year SIAC football and basketball television agreement with Urban Sports and Entertainment. He also negotiated the league’s first licensing and agreement program and developed the conference’s first corporate partnership program.
Prior to his two stints as Conference Commissioner, Vowels worked as an Associate Commissioner at the Big Ten Conference and Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance at Vanderbilt University.
With more than 23 years of intercollegiate athletics experience, Vowels is Vice President of Membership and Student-Athlete Affairs at the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) where he oversees educational programs designed to improve student-athlete well-being, leadership development and inclusion. At the NCAA, he leads a department of 26 NCAA staff members and oversaw a budget of $17 million.
Vowels also served on the Division I Management Council, Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, Division I Football Board of Directors and the Collegiate Commissioner’s Association (CCA). He also served as Chair of the Minorities Opportunities and Interest Committee (MOIC).
He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina where he was a full scholarship football student-athlete and his Juris Doctorate from the North Carolina Central University School of Law.
“Robert Vowels has a tremendous amount of intercollegiate athletics leadership and management skills and experiences, and we are very fortunate to have him as our Director of Athletics,” Garibaldi said. “Our student-athletes, coaches, and other athletics staff will benefit greatly from his current work at the NCAA.” More than 70 individuals applied for the position.