The idea was initially discussed during one of the monthly calls between Jay Jacobs — then the athletic director at Auburn — and Lee De León, Abilene Christian’s athletic director at the time. Jacobs provided mentorship and guidance to De León as a fellow Christian athletic director, and De León wanted more people to have the same opportunity.
“I just felt like there was this gap of, ‘How are athletic directors being fed and poured into and encouraged?'” De León, now a deputy AD at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, said in a recent interview with Sports Spectrum. “It’s lonely at the top and all of us need fellowship. God did not create us to go through this life on our own.”
In 2017, they formed ADs For Christ. The organization’s mission is to “connect, encourage, and equip current and aspiring athletics directors who love Jesus and are committed to making an impact for Him through college athletics,” according to its Facebook page.
“The purpose of the organization is to provide an opportunity for athletic directors and senior-level administrators to get together and fellowship and encourage one another,” De León said. “And really develop meaningful relationships that help us grow in our faith and help us be the men and women of God that God created us to be on our respective campuses.”
The first annual event organized by ADs For Christ took place in 2017 in Dallas, Texas, with 20 current and aspiring athletic directors in attendance. That number increased to 30 in year two.
By year three, there were 85 attendees at the annual event, and ADs For Christ was a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. ADs For Christ now has 210 members and a board of directors.
“Just the fact that I now know that there are 210 brothers and sisters in Christ out there in college athletics is a huge encouragement to me, knowing that I’m not alone,” De León said. “I’m not fighting this battle alone. There are other Christians out there in this industry that are going through what I’m going through.”
In addition to organizing the annual event, ADs For Christ sends monthly e-devotionals to its members and creates small groups so they can encourage and support each other throughout the year. The organization also schedules devotionals at conferences like the Collegiate Athletics Leadership Symposium.
This year’s ADs For Christ event will take place in Nashville, Tennessee, on July 24 and 25.
De León sees ADs For Christ as a way to serve and love everyone in college athletics administration.
“We want to make an impact on our industry,” he said. “We want to bless the people in college athletics, whether they’re believers or not. We want to be a blessing to them and to encourage people and to love people in a way that reflects the love of Jesus.”
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