Black History Month: Celebrating Alfred White
Spry is thrilled to celebrate the many successful African Americans in the sports industry. We are proud to work with many of these men and women and can’t wait to share their stories and successes with you!
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Alfred White. White held a number of roles within athletics during his successful and groundbreaking career.
Below is a summary of our conversation:
Please give me a brief history of your life/career.
“Growing up I always envisioned that I would be a baseball player. That was the plan until I suffered a back injury during my junior year of high school. Once it became apparent that I wasn’t going to be able to get back on the field as a player, I started looking for ways to remain involved with athletics. This led to me having a number of experiences that would prove valuable later in my career. My high school coach helped me get a job as a PA announcer, and I also became the sports editor of my high school newspaper. Additionally, I had the opportunity to work with a college summer league keeping stats and maintaining rosters. While working with the summer league, I had an encounter with a baseball coach from Texas Tech, Kal Segrist, who encouraged me to visit Tech. A few weeks later, a friend and I decided to fly out to Lubbock to see the campus. While there, I had a chance encounter with a Sr. Associate AD named Polk Robison. This encounter was really my first lesson in the importance of mentorship. “Coach” Robison saw me wandering in the halls and decided to pull me into his office. He then introduced me to the Sports Information Director, Ralph Carpenter, who in turn offered me a job as a sports information student assistant. My career sort of took off from there. After graduating from Texas Tech as a student, I wound up coming back after being hired as the Assistant Sports Information Director. I subsequently had an opportunity to work at the NCAA national office which was a tremendous experience that opened a lot of doors for me professionally.”
While at the NCAA, White would serve in a number of capacities including Assistant Director of Communications, Associate Director of Communications, Director of Promotions, and Director of Corporate Marketing. In these roles, he would lend his expertise to administering the Division II Baseball Championship, coordinate media for the I-AA (FCS) Football Championship, and 15 Men’s Final Fours, and was also an integral member of a team that would create the NCAA Corporate Partner Program. He coordinated professional development seminars for athletic marketing and promotions professionals and was a co-founder of the professional association for these administrators, now known as NACMA. Each of these experiences played a hand in a groundbreaking achievement for White when he was named commissioner of the Southern Conference in 1998. With this appointment, White became the first African-American commissioner of a non-HBCU conference. White said of his historic achievement, “I realize being the ‘first’ at anything is going to mean a lot to a number of people, but I was never caught up in being a significant figure. I was there to do a job, and to do the best job I could.” After three years at the helm of the SoCon, White set his sights on his next venture when he became the founding president of the NBA Developmental League’s (now the G-League) Asheville Altitude. “I had always wanted to work in professional sports,” said White of his decision to join the NBA franchise. After three years leading the Altitude, White went on to serve as Senior Associate Commissioner of Conference USA and most recently as Senior Director of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships for the College Football Playoff.
Who have been your role models/mentors professionally? Personally?
“While race can certainly be an obstacle to professional advancement, I was fortunate to have a number of people who were supportive of me in spite of this. Coach Kal Segrist was the individual who first put Texas Tech on my radar when I was still in high school. Ralph Carpenter, who was the SID at Texas Tech, was not only instrumental in providing me with opportunities to hone my skills as a college student, but he also introduced me to Dave Cawood, who was my boss at the NCAA. Dave was probably my most significant mentor who molded me as an administrator while at the NCAA. I also have to credit Keith Samples and Joe Hornaday, who were very supportive in terms of providing opportunities for professional growth while I was at Texas Tech.”
What advice would you offer to young professionals today?
“Mentorship is extremely important to finding success in athletics. I would strongly encourage any young person looking to get into athletics to focus on building strong relationships and find a mentor.”
“Find something that makes you stand out from the rest. If all you are is another applicant for a job, then you’re just another applicant for a job.”
“Put your head down and do the best job you can in your current role. If you knock it out of the park, the next job will find you!”
What does Black History Month mean to you?
“Black History Month to me means being inspired to follow your dreams. It’s about celebrating the accomplishments of people who were told they couldn’t accomplish something, but overcame.”
Alfred White has accomplished much throughout his remarkable career. While he may not view himself as a significant figure, because of his trailblazing achievements a new generation of aspiring athletic administrators can now feel inspired to follow their dreams. For this, Spry is proud to highlight his accomplishments as part of our Black History Month celebration!