Duke hires Nina King as first woman of color to serve as athletic director

Duke announced on Wednesday that it has promoted Nina King to vice president and director of athletics, a historic hire that makes her the first woman to hold the position at the university. 

She most recently held the position of senior deputy athletics director overseeing football and women’s basketball.

Barrier-breaking hire

In addition to becoming Duke's first woman to serve as athletic director, she is the third Black woman to ever hold the position at a Power Five school, joining Virginia's Carla Williams and Vanderbilt's Candice Storey Lee. She also becomes the third woman to currently hold the position in the ACC, joining Williams and Pittsburgh’s Heather Lyke. Former NC State athletic director Debbie Yow was the first woman to hold the position in the ACC.

King replaces Kevin White, who held the position since 2008 and plans to step down in August. King, 42, has worked alongside White at Duke since shortly after his 2008 hire. A Notre Dame graduate, she worked in school's athletic department as the director of rules education from 2005-08 when White was the athletic director there.

"I am deeply committed to continuing the strong tradition of academic and athletic excellence at our world-class institution," King said in a statement. "My priority will be to ensure that the experience is truly elite for our student-athletes, coaches, staff and the entire Duke family. This is a tremendous honor, and I look forward to ushering Duke Athletics into the next chapter."

Duke's search included ADs from other programs

The Raleigh New & Observer reports that King emerged from a field of candidates that included Villanova athletics director Mark Jackson, Rice athletics director Joe Karlgaard and Florida executive associate athletics director Lynda Tealer.

General Motors CEO Richard Wagoner, a Duke graduate and former Duke Board of Trustee chair, helmed the search to fill the position. 

“We set out on a national search to find the best possible leader, someone with the experience, intellect and vision to meet the challenges of the future and a sharp understanding of our commitment to excellence in academics and competition,” Wagoner said in a statement. “The committee was enthusiastic about Nina’s candidacy, and I could not be more excited to see her at the helm of Duke athletics.”

Duke coaches respond to historic hire

Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and women's basketball coach Kara Lawson each released statements congratulating King. 

"An important step for the continuity of the outstanding culture that exists within Duke Athletics…"

𝘾𝙤𝙖𝙘𝙝 𝙆 𝙤𝙣 𝙣𝙚𝙬 𝘿𝙪𝙠𝙚 𝘼𝘿 𝙉𝙞𝙣𝙖 𝙆𝙞𝙣𝙜 pic.twitter.com/Vhrh8RWFR0

— Duke Men’s Basketball (@DukeMBB) May 19, 2021

"Nina King has served our university well in whatever roles have been assigned to her," Krzyzewski said in a statement. "She has represented the Duke department of athletics with distinction both internally and externally, including many roles on the national stage."

Lawson celebrated the historic nature of the hire.

A historic hire!!! Congrats, Nina King! pic.twitter.com/LzalvJxiZk

— Duke Women’s Basketball (@DukeWBB) May 19, 2021

"This is a historic hire for Duke University," Lawson said in a statement. … "This is a powerful statement by president [Vincent] Price and our board of trustees."

Football coach David Cutcliffe also congratulated King.

"I am thrilled for Nina and her family," Cutliffe said in a statement. "She has prepared for this opportunity her entire professional life, learning from the best of all time in Dr. White."

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