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William Broussard, 34 – Director of athletics . Southern University

Some collegians are only on campus thanks to their athletic gifts. Wilfred Broussard was one of those kids who, if not for a basketball scholarship, would never have had a shot to be the first in his family to attend college. He made the honor role for the first time in his life at Grambling State, and went on to become assistant superintendent of schools for Acadia Parish.

In March, Broussard’s son was named athletics director for Southern University.

“I see my father in a lot of those student-athletes that I work with, who might not have been a star student in high school,” William Broussard says.

In recent years, several Southern University athletic programs have faced sanctions because their student-athletes weren’t holding up the front end of that term. Improving academic performance is one of Broussard’s top priorities, but he can’t do it alone.

“It requires a comprehensive culture shift,” he says. “Our faculty has to buy into that. Our entire administration has to buy into that.”

Most importantly, possibly, is the buy in from the coaches.

“The coaches on the recruiting trail right now have to remember that they’re not just looking for point guards and tennis players; they’re recruiting the class of 2017,” Broussard says. “Every athlete must be brought in with the expectation of graduating.”

Of course, the second half of the student-athlete equation is important, too, especially in football, where the expectations are highest. Firing head coach Stump Mitchell two games into the current season was a painful, but perhaps necessary, move after a dispiriting 6-0 home loss on national television to Mississippi Valley State.

“Something decisive had to be done,” Broussard says.

In some ways, the former star center at Northwestern State is a nontraditional athletics director. He didn’t study sports administration, although he holds a doctorate in rhetoric, composition, and the teaching of the English language from the University of Arizona.

Broussard’s long-term goal is to lead an entire college or university, and early in his academic career he assumed he’d work his way up as a tenure-track professor. But even in graduate school, his research was focused on the challenges of student-athletes, particularly those who are underprepared for college. In other words, student-athletes who are a lot like his father.

An aerospace engineer. As I started filling out a little bit and becoming the size of a collegiate offensive lineman, I started rethinking going to the Air Force and meeting that 250 pound weight limit.

I want to be a university or college president someday. I’m not ready for that yet. I still have a lot more work to do developing myself and my portfolio, and learning how to manage increasingly larger departments and budgets.

People always say underpromise and overdeliver. I believe in accurately promising and overdelivering.

This is a place that has cultural diversity and ethnic diversity as well, not only in its inhabitants, but in its professional culture…It gives businesses in this region great potential to establish and grow themselves.

I really like Churchill’s [among many other places]. It’s really quiet and unassuming.

Every town in the American South deals with de facto economic segregation. I wish those divisions between the areas of town were more permeable.

Promoting the value of a four-year college degree in the state of Louisiana. That does not mean that everyone’s path to success is going to require that, but it’s becoming an increasingly difficult sell.

Geographically, who knows? I do know that professionally, I’ll continue to work in higher education.

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