Sports Lawyer Joe D’Antonio Talks About His Successful Career as an NCAA Compliance Professional

Nov 13, 2015

One of the first things you notice about Joseph (Joey D) D’Antonio is the energy. He fills a room with a kind of can-do attitude that is infectious to all around him. Close behind that quality is the attention to detail and the ability to interact with EVERYONE around him..
Together, those qualities and many others have led D’Antonio to his current position as Senior Associate Commissioner for Governance & Compliance at the BIG EAST Conference. There, he is charged with the oversight of the Conference’s NCAA governance, legislative, enforcement, legal and compliance services. Additionally, he currently serves as the Conference’s representative to the NCAA Division I Legislative Council. He chaired the Council during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 legislative cycles.
Prior to joining the Conference in 2005, D’Antonio was the Associate Athletic Director of Compliance and Administration at Providence College, where he was promoted on three separate occasions and served in a number of administrative capacities.
But while his rise in the compliance ranks was attributable to some of those aforementioned qualities, his start in the business came about because of his love of hockey as D’Antonio tells it in this exclusive interview in Sports Litigation Alert and the Journal of NCAA Compliance.
Question: How did you get started as a compliance professional?
Answer: My start in compliance was very unique. I had been a student manager at Providence College for the men’s ice hockey team when I was a student there. Then I went to law school at New England school of law in Boston (graduating in 1993).
I always hoped that my law degree would lead me back to athletics. Then it happened. I was the master of ceremonies at the Providence College Men’s Ice Hockey Banquet, and I was sitting next to the school’s athletic director, John Marinatto. I discovered after speaking with John that Providence College had an open compliance position. I applied for the position and for it, was fortunate enough to get it.
Q: Who has been most instrumental in your career and why?
A: I have been very fortunate to have worked with some great people.
Certainly John and former Big East Conference Commissioner Mike Tranghese; both for having confidence in me and giving me an opportunity.
A couple others were Stan Wilcox, who at one time was an associate commissioner at Big East Conference and is now the AD at Florida State, and Kate Hickey, who used to be at Assistant Commissioner at the BIG EAST and is now a Sr. Associate AD / SWA at Rutgers. I was a young guy at Providence, and both Stan and Kate had a lot of patience with me.
Finally, I have also had a great support system at home, where my wife and kids have been very supportive.
Q: Has the compliance department at the conference level grown since you joined the Big East?
A: It really hasn’t grown all that much. What has changed is that the job of being a compliance professional has gotten exponentially more difficult every year. With new legislation always being adopted and a new governance structure being implemented, our job has gotten harder. But we’re still satisfying the same objective, which is to provide a support mechanism back to the member institutions, helping them to understand the governance process and providing day to day interpretive assistance.
Q: Tell me about your involvement with NAAC and how that has changed through the years?
A: I served on the NAAC board for 8 years. The organization has grown and flourished in recent years and people like Christian Spears, Dan Bartholomae, Kate Hickey, and Julie Cromer, deserve a lot of credit for the leadership they have provided to the organization. Being part of NAAC and watching it grow over years has been a tremendous accomplishment for everyone involved. I have said for a long time that the service that NAAC provides is tremendous.
My focus in recent years has been to operate as a conduit between NAAC and the Collegiate Commissioners Association of Compliance Administrators (CCACA). As my tenure on the NAAC board comes to a close, I am pleased with the positive working relationship that has developed between NAAC and the CCACA.
Q: How has the job of compliance professional changed?
A: You are more under the microscope than you were five or ten years ago. You look at the new scenarios that are developing, such as the rules around enforcement and head coach responsibility. It has become exponentially more difficult, and more pressurized.
Q: Will there come a time when 90 percent of compliance directors are attorneys?
A: No. And let me tell you why I believe that. Law school does change the way you think. Having been through it, I firmly believe that is a true statement.
However, the people in the compliance profession that are very what they do, are those folks that it are able to develop relationships and earn the respect of the individuals they work with on campus and in the athletic department. After you have been on-a campus as a compliance professional for 5-7 years, you know where to get the answers to interpretive questions, or who to ask to help you find those answers. The difficult part of the job is developing the relationships with the people is you are trying to help and getting them to understand that everyone is in this thing together. Now having a law degree may open the door to some to opportunities within the compliance profession, but having that law degree does not mean you are going to be successful in building relationships or earning the respect of the people you work with.


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