TCU’s Ike Ukaegbu is a rising star in varsity athletics

By on September 18, 2021 0

Ike Ukaegbu, who has been in charge of the TCU Athletics Compliance Department since 2014, is on track to eventually become university athletic director.

Ike Ukaegbu, who has been in charge of the TCU Athletics Compliance Department since 2014, is on track to eventually become university athletic director.

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The name Ike Ukaegbu may not appeal to even the most passionate TCU fans. He spends his days mostly working behind the scenes, overseeing the Compliance Department since May 2014.

But Ukaegbu has become one of the most influential people in TCU’s athletics department. He helped navigate the men’s basketball program through the NCAA’s investigation of former aide Corey Barker, who was linked to the FBI’s investigation of fraud and corruption in sports.

Ukaegbu was on TCU’s internal search committee for their next baseball coach when Jim Schlossnagle left, a job that went to pitching coach Kirk Saarloos.

And, especially in recent times, Ukaegbu is spearheading the department’s efforts on Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) legislation that allows student-athletes to earn money by endorsement.

All of this has driven Ukaegbu from the background to the forefront as TCU enters a new era of varsity athletics. Members of TCU’s department and others within the industry understand that Ukaegbu is a rising star and believe he is on the verge of becoming a sporting director one day.

“Ike has become a real leader within our team”, TCU AD Jérémie Donati noted. “He’s someone who has come to TCU and is getting better and better every year. He is someone for whom I have enormous admiration and respect. His future in varsity athletics really has no limits.

“If you’re good enough to become AD, you will have your chance. I think Ike will definitely get hers.

Prepare for success

Ukaegbu, 36, is preparing his resume for seemingly overnight high-level promotion.

He received the TCU Chancellor’s Staff Award for Outstanding Service in 2020 and has just completed the NCAA Pathway program. On Wednesday evening, he was in charge of TCU’s event to educate local business leaders on various policies and protocols with the NIL legislation approved this summer.

Ukaegbu rose through the ranks by transforming TCU’s compliance office into something that shouldn’t be “feared”. Instead, he’s there to help programs and student-athletes resolve any issues that may arise.

Sometimes the compliance office has to deliver bad news, but it usually helps a program or student-athlete achieve a favorable outcome, like what the men’s basketball program received this summer.

“We have created an environment in which we have a customer service mentality,” Ukaegbu said. “We make sure we are accessible. We are respectful. We work hard to solve people’s problems. I think this resonates throughout the department and in all of our dealings with campus. It is a team effort.

This culture change within the Compliance Office is part of the reason Ukaegbu has established itself as a candidate for the Pathway program. It is designed to elevate high level sports administrators to become ADs or conference commissioners.

Ukaegbu’s mentors during the program were Colorado State Athletic Director Joe Parker and University of Nebraska Chancellor Ronnie Green.

“Going through the Pathway program has been invaluable, especially for someone who comes from an internal background like me,” Ukaegbu said. “People who have an internal background have more opportunities to become AD. In order to put me in the position to become AD, a program like this helps me and prepares me to create the right culture and deal with the crisis.

“It was just a great experience.”

The program has helped Ukaegbu in a variety of ways, including learning more about the external nature of the DA position, from corporate sponsorships and fundraising to media relations.

More importantly, he paired him with respected mentors and veterans such as Parker and Green. He saw with his own eyes how Parker handled the Colorado State Sports Department in the midst of the pandemic. Green, meanwhile, went through the process of hiring a new AD this summer.

“I couldn’t have asked for better mentors,” Ukaegbu said. “Joe is one of the most respected ADs. He’s a very nice guy who handled the crises and the investigations. Chancellor Green is great too, and working with him has really shown how important it is for the DA to be aligned with your Chancellor.

Ukaegbu left a favorable impression on Parker and Green. Much like those in the TCU offices, they believe he is destined to become an AD as soon as possible.

“It was a real honor for Ike to call me up and ask to be one of his mentors,” Parker said. “He has developed strong decision-making skills. He’s a truly authentic communicator. The experiences I have had with him, he works really hard to understand every aspect of a problem and a challenge that he is trying to solve or overcome.

Green added: “I was very impressed from the first meeting I had with Ike. He is intelligent. He’s aggressive. He gets things done. All of those kinds of things about someone that you figure out pretty quickly. He also has an interesting career. “

nigerian roots

Ukaegbu (pronounced ooo-Kay-boo) was born in Nigeria and moved to the United States with his family when he was 7 years old. Her father was a sociology professor who taught at California-Berkeley before moving to the University of Wyoming and later to Northwestern.

Ukaegbu considers Laramie, Wyoming, his hometown. It was there that he spent most of his childhood and fell in love with the sport as a ball collector for the Wyoming men’s basketball team in the mid-90s.

“If I’m not a ball boy, I don’t know if I would be in varsity track and field today,” Ukaegbu said. “This is the first time I have seen the joy, the unity, the happiness, the excitement that college sport brings to a community.”

Ukaegbu went to the University of Arizona with the dream of joining the track and field team as a sprinter. He eventually became a traditional student, studying pre-law and political science. He graduated in 2007 and then earned his Masters in Sports Management from St. Thomas University in Miami.

Ukaegbu found his place in compliance by interning at the Florida Atlantic compliance office as a graduate student.

“Compliance is something I knew I could potentially be good at given the attention to detail, helping coaches, helping eligible people,” he said. “I picked it up pretty quickly. And, to be honest, compliance is in my opinion one of the best areas to prepare for DA. You work with all aspects of the sports department – coaches, staff, student-athletes – and almost every aspect of the campus – admission, accommodation, financial aid.

“I don’t know if there is a better route.”

Ukaegbu appears to be on the right track. Donati is among his biggest supporters, as are Parker and Green of the Pathway program.

Cincinnati athletic director John Cunningham is also very optimistic about Ukaegbu’s future. The two worked together at Boise State early in their careers, and Cunningham is the one who tipped Ukaegbu when the TCU opened.

“He doesn’t need my help, but I tried to open the TCU door slightly,” Cunningham said.

Ukaegbu has made the most of the TCU opportunity and it is only a matter of time before he becomes an AD colleague of Donati, Parker and Cunningham.

“Absolutely,” Cunningham said. “He’s nice, so he can do everything outside. Then he has all the internal skills, dealing with heavy topics, different situations and problem solving.

“He is absolutely ready to become a sports director. “

This story was originally published September 17, 2021 6:00 a.m.

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