When Ike Ukaegbu entered the athletic department offices at Washington State University for the first time on June 13 it represented his exit from a fast-rising compliance career to one of athletic department leadership
Ukaegbu spent the past seven years as the Senior Associate Athletics Director for Compliance at Texas Christian University (TCU). While there, he oversaw all areas of TCU’s comprehensive athletics compliance operations for the department’s 22 sport programs, was the Sport Administrator for the Men’s Basketball, Swimming & Diving and Rifle programs, and was also a member of the Athletic Director’s Executive Team.
While at TCU, Ukaegbu also served as a member of the department of athletics Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Council. As part of his DEI Council responsibilities, he represented the athletics department in the university’s search for a Chief Inclusion Officer. In August 2020, he was selected as the TCU Chancellor’s Staff Award recipient, which recognizes a university staff member noted for exemplary service and above and beyond contributions to the welfare of the campus community. Ukaegbu, in collaboration with other athletics department staff members and campus partners, spearheaded the launch of TCU’s Name, Image & Likeness program, “Scaled to Succeed.”
Prior to TCU, Ukaegbu served one year as an Associate Athletics Director for compliance at Virginia Commonwealth University. At VCU, he oversaw all areas of compliance for the department’s 17 sport programs, was a member of the senior administrative team, and also served as the sport administrator/supervisor for women’s soccer.
Ukaegbu spent two years as the Director of Athletic Compliance at Boise State University, while also serving in the compliance offices at Cal State Fullerton (2010-11), American University (2008-10) and Florida Atlantic (2007-08).
Throughout his career, Ukaegbu has served on numerous institutional, conference and national committees and organizations including the NCAA Eligibility Center Division I External Advisory Group, the National Association for Athletics Compliance (NAAC) Thought Leaders Group, and the National Association for Athletics Compliance (NAAC) Convention Committee, in which he chaired the Networking Subcommittee. He also represented the NCAA Division I membership on the NCAA Eligibility Center Vice President Search Committee in the Fall of 2016.
Ukaegbu earned a B.A. in Political Science with a Minor in Pre-Law from the University of Arizona in 2007 and a Master’s of Science in Sports Administration from St. Thomas University (Miami, Fla.) in 2008. He and his wife, Katie, have three children, Devin, Rosie, and Spencer.
We caught up Ukaegbu before he began the WSU job and sought his insights.
Question: How did you get your break in athletics administration?
Answer: After graduating with my Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Arizona, I pursued a Master’s Degree at St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida. At the time, I was fortunate to work as an intern in the compliance office at Florida Atlantic University. That one-year internship prepared me for my first full-time compliance job as the Director of Compliance at American University. I then went on to hold compliance positions at Cal State Fullerton, Boise State, VCU and TCU. About half of my compliance career, was spent at TCU and I was fortunate to also serve as a sport administrator for three sport programs while there, including for the Men’s Basketball program.
Q: What skills do you have to have to be a successful compliance professional?
A: To be a successful compliance professional, you should be knowledgeable about NCAA rules, efficient, empathetic, friendly, and professional. Additionally, it helps to be thick-skinned, a good listener, problem-solver, and communicator.
Q: What was your greatest accomplishment as a compliance professional?
A: My biggest accomplishment as a compliance professional was building strong and healthy relationships with coaches. I built these relationships by being approachable and visible, providing significant rules education and exhausting all resources and options when attempting to find ethical solutions for coaches. These methods allowed me to build trust with the coaches I served.
Q: Do you have any regrets about the work you did?
A: I have no regrets about the work I did throughout my 15-year compliance career.
Q: What will you most when you leave day to day compliance?
A: I will miss helping student-athletes navigate NCAA waivers that significantly impact their lives. Throughout my compliance career, I was fortunate to assist numerous student-athletes overcome many difficult circumstances (e.g., mental health, physical injuries, academic ineligibility, financial circumstances, etc.) by filing NCAA waivers on their behalf. Thankfully, a strong majority of the waivers were approved. Although these waiver experiences were sometimes emotionally taxing on the student-athletes and all other parties involved, the approvals had major impacts on the student-athletes at that moment, for the remainder of their collegiate careers and for some of them, the rest of their lives.