Tuesday, July 29, 2008
LU's New Athletic Director Hit the Ground Running After Being Stalled on Her Journey to Jefferson City
Paula Jackson spent the last two years at Savannah State University
By Tony Hawley
Jefferson City News-Tribune
By Tony Hawley
Jefferson City News-Tribune
The new Lincoln University athletic director is right where she wants to be - even if some omens might indicate otherwise.
Paula Jackson, who was hired for the job earlier this month, had to overcome two travel hardships just to take her new post.
Prior to her in-person interview for the position, Jackson's trip to Jefferson City was delayed due to smoke in the plane bringing her from Savannah, Ga.
Then, after accepting the job, Jackson's trip to the Capital City was twice slowed due to problems with her truck.
“Does Amtrak come here?” she asked with a laugh during an interview at her new office. “Because that might have been the next option.”
But Jackson finally made it to town and has hit the ground running. A large part of last week was devoted to meeting after meeting after meeting, which may have set the tone for the next few months.
“For me, initially, it's about building relationships,” said the native of Baton Rouge, La. “It's about getting to know the community, the alumni, the boosters, all that.
“Then from there, it's about getting the coaches and the athletes out into the area and building relationships, making others stronger and creating some where there are none.”
Jackson spent the past two years as assistant athletic director of compliance and senior women's administrator at Savannah State University. Last school year, she also served as the interim athletic director after the previous AD resigned soon after school started.
“It was sink or swim,” she said. “The vice president called me and said, ‘I want to ask you to do something and I'll give you 24 hours to think about it, and then you can come back and we'll get started.' I was like, ‘What just happened?'
“In addition to (the new job), I was still doing all of my other responsibilities in a tornado of four or five jobs. I was learning a lot, getting a lot of on-the-job training. It was a great opportunity for me and I think I took the best out of it that I could.”
It wasn't the first time Jackson learned to do multiple jobs in a sports environment.
“At my high school, part of the curriculum was taking football,” she said. “We had four years of football and you had to play every position, learn how to write plays, do everything on the field. That was probably the only time my Dad ever helped me with my homework.”
That came in handy as recently as last year.
“I was sitting in a room with some football players waiting for the coaches and they were all writing plays on the board,” she said. “I asked what they were doing. They started explaining, ‘Miss Paula, you probably don't know much about this.' But I started dissecting everything and they were like, ‘We didn't know you knew that.'
“I was like, ‘Yeah, when you mess up on the field, I know exactly what you did.'”
Jackson's work background includes an injury-shortened season as a Cheerleader for the Atlanta Falcons; time at a sports management company for professional athletes; a period running her own company that did sports marketing and event planning; and time in administrative jobs at Morehead (Ky.) State University and Clark-Atlanta University, with the time at Clark-Atlanta proving especially beneficial.
“That was probably the best experience because I had to do everything, probably too much,” Jackson said. “The only thing I didn't do there was athletic training and coaching, and I've done interim coaching since then.
“You've got to be prepared.”
She's now prepared for the job at Lincoln, a place she said she felt an instant “connection” to during the interview process.
“Obviously, you want to see results, because athletic programs are known for their wins and losses,” she said. “But you have to look at each (sport) individually because every one is very different. You can't just put a mandate that everybody's got to win 85 percent of their games, because not every team is going to be there, for whatever reason.
“So let's figure out where we are, where the issues are, and how we can turn it around and get to where we want to be.”
Profession: Lincoln University athletic director
Education: Bachelor's degree in broadcast and print journalism from Southern (La.) University, master's degree in business administration from Clark-Atlanta University
In Mid-Missouri: New to the area
Family: Single; one son, Blake, 12
Civic involvement: Women In Sports and Events; Black Women's Sports Foundation; Women's Sport Foundation; Sports Divas; marketing committee chair, National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators