Nicki Moore named director of athletics

Nicki Webber Moore, vice president and director of athletics at Colgate University, has been named Cornell’s Meakem Smith Director of Athletics and Physical Education.

Moore will become the university’s first female director of athletics when she begins her new role Jan. 17, 2023.

Nicki Webber Moore has been named the Meakem Smith Director of Athletics and Physical Education.

“Our diverse athletics and physical education programs form a vital part of the Cornell experience, building leadership, wellness and camaraderie for generations of Cornellians,” President Martha E. Pollack said. “Dr. Moore’s expertise and commitment will be a tremendous asset to our community, and she is an excellent choice to lead and strengthen those programs in the years ahead.”

The appointment was announced to the Department of Athletics and Physical Education by Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life.

“I am excited to welcome Dr. Moore to the Cornell Big Red family,” Lombardi said. “Nicki is a seasoned, collaborative and strategic leader who is deeply committed to the success of student-athletes both within and outside of the competitive arena. I look forward to seeing all she does to build upon Cornell’s rich tradition of intercollegiate athletic excellence and to amplify the tremendous impact that a robust recreational and physical education program has on the academic and personal growth of all students.”

Moore will succeed J. Andrew Noel, who took over as director of athletics in 1999 and has led the Big Red to 105 Ivy League team titles and 35 national championships (17 team, 18 individual). She takes the reins of an athletics program that features 37 Division I varsity sports, the fourth-largest portfolio of any school in the nation.

Moore has spent the last 18 years in athletics administration roles at the University of Oklahoma, the University of North Carolina and Colgate.

“I am incredibly humbled and honored, and I can’t wait to get to work,” Moore said. “Cornell is such an exciting opportunity, as a place committed to true excellence in both academics and athletics where student-athletes can pursue all of their aspirations at the very highest level.”

Cornell will join Brown University (Grace Calhoun), Harvard University (Erin McDermott), the University of Pennsylvania (Alanna Shanahan) and Yale University (Victoria Chun) as Ivy League institutions with female directors of athletics.

“Nicki is an experienced leader who is highly respected nationally as evidenced by her recognition by Women Leaders in College Sports as 2022 FCS Executive of the Year, and her recent role as president of the FCS Athletics Directors Association, leading her athletics director peers nationally,” said Robin Harris, the Ivy League’s executive director. “She brings invaluable experience and insights from working at a variety of outstanding schools and I am excited to welcome her to the Ivy League.”

Moore noted Cornell’s long history of inclusivity – it was among the first institutions in the nation to admit women and people of color – as well as one of the first to combine women and men’s athletics under the same leadership, more than 100 years ago.

“I am very proud to be named as Cornell’s first woman AD during this 50th anniversary year of Title IX,” Moore said, referring to the 1972 law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the federal government.

“It’s a step that is aligned closely with the founders’ original ‘any person … any study’ vision for the university,” she said. “While it is so encouraging to see more women getting the chance to lead in these kinds of roles at this level, ultimately the true value of this progress will lie in how successfully we execute around our mission.”

At Colgate, a member of the Patriot League, Moore leads an athletics program that includes 25 NCAA Division I varsity athletics programs, as well as club sports, intramural and recreational programs, the outdoor education program and a physical education program.

In addition to intercollegiate athletics, Moore will oversee Cornell’s recreation programs, physical and outdoor education programs and campus athletics facilities.

“There is a real desire, a commitment, to elevate the program, and not just varsity athletics, but also recreation,” she said. “That’s really important – to actually be able to impact the experience of every student on campus, along with members of the community. I see great potential for competitive and developmental success within the people and programs at Cornell, and I am deeply grateful for the chance to lead and become a part of it.”

Moore said diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) will be high on her list of priorities, alongside promoting mental health and well-being for student-athletes and the campus. Since 2020, she has served on the Patriot League Anti-Racism Commission, and, having begun her career in athletics as a licensed counseling and sport psychologist, she has established programs to provide psychological resources to student-athletes at Oklahoma, North Carolina and Colgate.

From 2015-18, Moore served as a senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at North Carolina. Before that, she served for 11 years in several athletic administration capacities, including senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator, at Oklahoma.

Moore was a member of the NCAA Strategic Visioning and Planning Committee (2015-21), and since 2005 has served on the NCAA Mental Health Task Force. She is a fellow for the Collegiate Clinical/Counseling Sport Psychology Association.

Moore received her bachelor’s (1996), master’s (1998) and Ph.D. in counseling psychology (2002) from the University of Missouri, where she was a four-time captain on the track and cross-country teams. An Academic All-American and inaugural president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, she earned postgraduate scholarships from both the NCAA and the Big 12 Conference.

Moore and her husband, Bill Moore, a mental performance specialist with the Colgate athletics program, have one son at home and three adult sons.

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Rebecca Valli