Get Connected AD

TopConnect was born over 15 years ago as a project to connect future leaders with current leaders. Initially launched as Villa 7, the TopConnect program has evolved into a valuable resource for professionals in the current climate of sports, athletics and leadership in general to foster dialogue between individuals that continually strive to effectively lead people, programs and organizations.

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We are focused on bringing individuals together to build relationships, expand their network and create a dyanmic forum for information sharing to facilitiate the introduction between coaches and college administrators.

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Along with giving coaches access to the industry leaders, we are committed to providing resources to help prepare the next generation of leaders through education, mentorship and sharing real life experiences.

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Leadership is the foundation of success for any organization, department or progam. For the past 15+ years we have worked diligently to give both leaders and future leaders the resources necessary to continue their journey to lead.

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TopConnect AD is designed for senior level athletics administrators who are committed to taking the next step in their careers. Attendees will benefit from interactive sessions with long-time Athletics Directors, current Presidents/Chancellors/CEO’s of Division-I institutions, search firm leadership, and recently hired Athletics Directors. .

TopConnect revolutionizes the connections within the world of collegiate athletics by joining future leaders with current leaders through an educational forum. Initially launched over fifteen years ago as Villa 7, the TopConnect program has evolved into a valuable resource for coaches, athletics administrators, and other industry leaders. After great success within the Division-1 men’s and women’s basketball industry, the next generation of TopConnect programs will launch in Fall 2020 starting with Top Connect AD.

Attendees will be selected based on recommendations from their current AD’s, Conference Commissioners, Athletics Industry Leaders, and are free to nominate themselves with supporting references. Applicants must currently be employed at a NCAA Division-I institution, Conference Office, the NCAA, or another major industry contributor to Division-I athletics. This event is by invitation only. Get more information and/or submit a nominee.


Top Connect AD 2020 will be help via Zoom. Participants will receive a confirmation email upon acceptance into the program and will receive a Zoom link the week of the event. All times noted in the schedule are eastern standard time. The schedule for Top Connect AD 2020 is as follows:

Thursday, October 15, 2020
10:00 AM Welcome to Top Connect AD
10:15 AM Athletics Director Panel
11:15 AM President’s Panel
12:15 PM Lunch (30 minutes)
12:45 PM Setting Expectations with Head Coaches
1: 45 PM Transition Instructions
*Group 2’s Day will conclude at 2 PM
2:00 PM Group 1 Roundtable
3:00 PM Roundtable Ends

Friday, October 16, 2020
10:00 AM Day II Welcome
10:15 AM Current AD’s in their first 3 years Panel
11:15 AM Search Firm Panel
12:15 PM Lunch
12:45 PM Evaluating, Recruiting, and Hiring Talent
1: 45 PM Closing Remarks and Transition Instructions for Group 2
*Group 1’s Day will conclude at 2 pm
2:00 PM Group 2 Roundtable
3:00 PM Roundtable Ends


University Presidents Panel

Presidents of Division-I institutions will discuss their hiring process, their expectations of an AD, their involvement in Athletics, and the role of Athletics in the mission of higher education.

Search Firms Panel

Search firm leaders will discuss their process for identifying talent, their role in searches, how searches differ from institution to institution, and lessons learned.

Experienced AD Panel

This session will consist of a discussion between experienced AD’s regarding their experiences, the importance of communication, leading during challenging times, and their thoughts on the future of college athletics.

AD’s in their first 3 years Panel

This session will include a discussion with AD’s who are in their first few years of sitting in the big chair, their experiences, their advice to first-time AD’s, issues they did not anticipate, and more.

Setting Expectations with Head Coaches

This session will consist of a conversation between AD’s and the head coaches they have hired. The discussion will include an overview of how expectations were set, the importance of communications, negotiations, and navigating difficult conversations.

Evaluating, Recruiting, and Hiring Talent:

This session will consist of a dialogue between AD’s and the senior staff members they have hired and worked with throughout their career. AD’s will discuss their self-reflection, how they recruited talent, and set expectations. Staff members will reflect on their recruitment, the leadership of the AD, and their role in the organization.

Round Table:

Attendees will be divided into two groups: Day 1 Group and Day 2 Group. Two attendees will be paired together and will participate in three roundtable discussions (each lasting 20 minutes) with either a current sitting AD and one of their senior administrators, a search firm, or a President.

Executive Board

Dr. Richard Sander is the founder of Top Connect, Villa 7, and currently serves as the Director for the Center for Global Sport Leadership and Executive in Residence – Assistant to the President of East Tennessee State University. He led Virginia Commonwealth’s athletic program for 20 years and was Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at ETSU.

Kay Lennon-McGrew, Esq. currently serves as Assistant University Counsel at East Tennessee State University. She has previously served as an SWA and Senior Associate AD for Compliance and Student-Athlete Welfare. During her career, Lennon-McGrew has worked for the University of Hartford, Mercer University, and the University of Florida, as well as in private practice.

Jeff Schemmel is the founder and president of College Sports Solutions. Schemmel has over 25 years of intercollegiate athletics management experience. A former Athletic Director who has served in key leadership positions within the NCAA, the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA, and at schools in the Big 12, Big Ten, and Pac-12 conferences.

Dan Walters serves as an Associate Partner in Buffkin / Baker’s Higher Education and Sports Practices. Walters is a former Associate Head Men’s Golf Coach who spent a nine-year tenure at Wake Forest University and was an assistant coach at Rollins College.

Alfreeda Goff is a pioneer female in college athletics. During her career, she has served as Senior Associate Commissioner, Chief Championships Administrator, Senior Woman Administrator and governance liaison at the Horizon League, as Athletics Director at Virginia State University, Associate Athletics Director at VCU, and Head Track at the University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Wood Selig is the Director of Athletics at Old Dominion University. During his time at ODU, he oversaw the move to Conference USA and the transition of ODU football to the FBS level. He previously served as the Athletics Director at Western Kentucky, Senior Associate Athletics at Virginia, and Director of Ticketing at VCU.

Mark Benson is the Athletics Director at the University at Albany. Benson is a proven fundraiser who has secured $10 million gifts, numerous $1 million dollar gifts, and naming rights to stadiums. He previously served as Senior Associate Athletics director at Old Dominion University and worked for the Coca-Cola.

Troy Austin returned to his alma mater in October of 2018 and serves as the Senior Associate Director of Athletics for Internal Affairs at Duke. He previously served as Director of Athletics at Longwood University and oversaw the school’s transition to NCAA Division-1. He also served as Director of Program Development and Marketing Relations for the National Football League Coaches Association.