Chris Grant, a dynamic leader whose broad experience as a college athletics executive runs the spectrum from small conferences to running tournaments for a Power Five conference, has been named the new Commissioner of the Southland Conference.
Grant, who is currently the Conference’s deputy commissioner, will fully take on his new responsibilities when Commissioner Tom Burnett – who is also currently serving as chair of the NCAA’s Division I Men’s Basketball Committee – will move into a role as full-time senior consultant to the commissioner and the Board of Directors after the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament concludes.
“As we look ahead, we are truly excited that Chris will be leading us at a time of unprecedented change, and opportunity, in college athletics,” said Jay Clune, president of Nichols State University and the chair of the conference’s governing board. “A former student-athlete who has served at nearly every level of college sports and succeeded everywhere he’s gone, he has the right mix of innovative spirit, determination, and openness to collaborate that a strong commissioner needs.”
Clune continued, “I particularly want to thank Tom Burnett for his many years of devoted service and extraordinary accomplishments. I know that he and Chris will effect a smooth transition, and we will all continue to benefit from Tom’s wisdom in his new role.”
Grant, who came to the Southland Conference as deputy commissioner in August, will become the conference’s first African-American commissioner. Before coming to Southland, he served as Associate Commissioner of Sports Management and Championships at the Pac-12 Conference, where among his many accomplishments he played a key role in successfully establishing the women’s basketball championship in Las Vegas and spearheading negotiations for the inaugural 2022 conference baseball tournament in Scottsdale.
Prior to that, he was Director of Sports Services at Conference USA, and Assistant Athletics Director at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.
As a student-athlete, Grant was a four-year football letter winner at Kentucky State University, from which he graduated cum laude and on the AD’s honor roll.
“Chris has the perfect mix of experience as a leader – both as a student-athlete and as a conference administrator – that will make him a superb commissioner,” said Steve Moniaci, athletic director at Houston Baptist University. “When you put that together with his personal commitment to innovation and his ability to work with others, it really is a recipe for success. I know all of the Athletic Directors are looking forward to working with Chris as we continue striving to make this one of the premier athletic conferences in the country.”
Grant expressed his appreciation for the opportunity and also his admiration for Burnett, “Tom has been an exceptional leader and the face of this conference for 20 years. I am so appreciative that Tom will remain on staff in a full-time senior consulting role as we address the ever-changing developments in college athletics.
“I am humbled by the responsibility being entrusted to me by our conference presidents, and I am determined to live up to their expectations,” Grant added. “This is a time of great upheaval in college sports, but also one that, if we work together and navigate it successfully, is a time of great opportunity for our schools and, most importantly, for our student athletes.”
Burnett, who will remain as commissioner during a transition period until the spring, said, “I couldn’t be more pleased than to be leaving the conference in Chris’s hands. He brings a student-athlete’s competitiveness and dynamism, along with an infectious innovative spirit that I’ve had the privilege to experience first-hand. I think the conference will have an exciting future, and I look forward to working with him in our new roles.”
Grant and his wife, Marie-Therese, a former standout volleyball student-athlete at the University of Texas at El Paso and currently the Vice President of Strategic Accounts at Thrive Global, reside in Plano, Texas, with their goldendoodle, Bash.
Commissioner Tom Burnett, who is also the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Chair, will become a senior consultant to Grant and the Board of Directors.
Grant, a former student-athlete, brings broad conference leadership experience and a commitment to innovation at a time of widespread change; will take over in spring 2022.
About the Southland Conference
Founded in Dallas in 1963 and now in its 59th competitive season, the Southland Conference celebrates the academic and competitive achievements of its member institutions and their student-athletes. Based in Frisco, Texas, the league now includes eight members in Louisiana and Texas and sponsors 19 NCAA Division I sports, with NCAA Championships automatic berths in 12 applicable team sports. The Southland Conference has won numerous national championships, including the 2021 NCAA Division I FCS title, and wins regularly in other sports in NCAA postseason play, including the 2021 Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. The Conference also features a newly-expanded agreement with ESPN Networks, broadcasting hundreds of competitions each year, and is represented in the national corporate sales marketplace by Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment. The Southland has also served as the host conference for the successful NCAA Division I FCS Championship Game in Frisco since 2011.
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