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Lending a Helping Hand

To Kevin White, Clemson University’s first Black deputy athletic director (AD), it’s about serving students. It’s about paying forward the good grace he received throughout his own career. It’s what drives him to keep working, he says.

If he can offer advice and guidance to younger folks in his field, he’s here for it.

Kevin WhiteKevin White“I make myself available to folks. If they want time with me, then I want to make time for them,” White tells Diverse. “Because a lot of people picked up my phone call. A lot of people wrote me back when I wrote them letters and answered my emails. And so, I want to make sure that I never forget that. And I want to make sure I pay it forward to young people.”

For more than a decade, White has been involved in collegiate athletics. Starting out in his first full-time job in the industry at his alma mater, Georgia State University (GSU), White worked his way up from travel coordinator to associate athletics director for business operations and finance and chief financial officer for the athletics department.

White holds a B.A. in psychology from UNC Chapel Hill, an M.S. in athletic administration from GSU, and an MBA from Kennesaw State University.

Per the advice of a mentor, he picked being travel coordinator over academic adviser at GSU to get a better understanding of budgets and money and to have more doors in the sports world open to him.

He then proceeded to spend his career in several other high-profile roles in the field all across the country, from CFO and later chief operation officer for Southern Methodist University Athletics in Texas to deputy AD and CFO for Northwestern University Athletics in Chicago.

Throughout his career, White has been involved in the details, the inner workings of collegiate athletics, both internally behind-the-scenes and externally with donors and leadership. He’s had a hand in hiring decisions, salary discussions, performance evaluations and more — work that affects every sport in an athletic department.

White has spent two years as deputy AD at Clemson as of April. His job has involved myriad responsibilities that affect all Clemson’s sports. Fundraising, NIL (name, image, and likeness), and capital and construction projects are some in addition to his work as sports administrator for Clemson’s football and men’s basketball teams.

As second-in-command under AD Graham Neff, White helps whittle down the hundreds of things running through Neff’s mind, he says, helping the department stay focused on the handful of most important priorities for any given week while keeping in mind the rest.

When White works, he doesn’t cut corners, says colleague Brad Brown, COO of Clemson Athletics’ fundraising arm, IPTAY. White chooses to do things “the right way,” refusing to sacrifice his personal or the institution’s values in the process.

In September of last year, White was also chosen to be part of athletic director association LEAD1’s Diversity Fellowship Program Class of 2023-24.

Brown describes White as a “first-class professional,” a well-known industry leader, a selfless and caring mentor, and as someone who prioritizes his family.

White says that he is thankful for the support and sacrifices his wife, Jari, and his kids have made for him to advance his career. They’ve been willing to pick up their lives and move multiple times across the U.S. for White’s various positions.

“I think, a lot of times, in our profession, our spouses don’t get enough credit. Our kids don’t get enough credit,” White says. “My kids have lived in Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, and now South Carolina. ... Without my wife, Jari, I wouldn’t be able to have the impact that I hope to have on young people without these roles and opportunities that I’ve been able to take advantage of.”

White’s status as Clemson’s first Black deputy AD is groundbreaking, though his race is not necessarily what he wants to be known for at the school, he says.

“I don’t ever want to be hired because of my race,” White says. “I want [people] to understand that I’m a qualified candidate and I can do the job, regardless of my race. My race, in my opinion, is a bonus because it’s a different perspective [and adds] diversity in thought potentially on how things can be done.”

His historic status helps him show young people – particularly those who look like him – that there are other routes they can take other than coaching if they want to get into the collegiate athletics industry, he explains.

“It’s important for me to be able to show these young men and women that there is an opportunity for you in athletic administration that doesn’t involve coaching necessarily,” he says. “Coaching is great if that’s what you want to do. But if you don’t want to go into coaching, if you want to serve student athletes in another way, you can look to me.”

White aspires to someday be an athletic director, and Brown thinks it’s just a matter of time before he reaches that goal.

“Clemson is a special place,” White says. “I love my time here.”

Long-time friend and colleague Brian Baptiste, who worked alongside White as a fellow deputy AD at Northwestern, says it’s been exciting to see his friend grow in his career. He adds that White carries a calm demeanor and demonstrates measured thinking. The two and their families are close.

“I consider Kevin to be like my brother as we navigate through this industry together,” Baptiste says. “It’s one of the coolest things to be able to see where he is now. I know the sky’s the limit.

“The industry is better because we have Kevin White in the equation.”

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