McClelland, Kelly Join Vanderbilt Staff

Seasoned college athletics leaders take on leadership roles with Commodores

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Former athletic directors and distinguished college administrators Tommy McClelland and Dr. Kristene Kelly have joined Vanderbilt Athletics as deputy athletic directors, Vice Chancellor for Athletics and University Affairs and Athletic Director Candice Lee announced today.

“We are fortunate to have Tommy and Kristene join our Vanderbilt team,” said Lee. “Both are highly regarded leaders, have extensive experience in college athletics, track records of proven success, and are relationship builders. Most importantly, they are firmly committed to student-athletes, and are mission-driven and purposeful in their work.

“Both Tommy and Kristene are very competitive, and I’m excited for the energy that they will bring each and every day. As deputy athletic directors, their roles are significant as we continue to position Vanderbilt Athletics for the future. This is a critically important time, and I know that their impact on our student-athletes, coaches, staff, campus partners, community and Commodore Nation will be tremendous. We are excited to welcome them and their families to Vanderbilt, Nashville and the SEC.”

McClelland, who joins Vanderbilt after a landmark term as director of athletics at Louisiana Tech, will serve as the deputy athletic director for external affairs and revenue generation. He will direct the Commodores’ marketing and promotional efforts, ticket operations and sales, fan engagement and hospitality, broadcasting and Learfield IMG College partnership.

“As this opportunity materialized, our family felt called both personally and professionally to this exciting new chapter. We are thrilled to be joining the Vanderbilt community,” McClelland said. “I am thankful for this opportunity extended by Dr. Lee, who shares every value that Vanderbilt has as an institution – and that it should expect for its athletics program. I am inspired to be a part of Vanderbilt’s commitment to innovation and leadership through academic and personal development, athletic excellence, stakeholder engagement, fan experience and financial performance.

“Like Dr. Lee, I have a deep and personal understanding of what it means to be a student-athlete. Each decision we make will be with the best interest of the student-athlete at the forefront. Throughout my career, I have always sought to operate with integrity and a passion to provide remarkable students with every opportunity for academic and athletic success. I look forward to building relationships with Vanderbilt’s student-athletes, staff, donors, alums and former letter winners, and anyone with a passion for advancing our student-athletes both in and out of competition.”

Kelly, previously a senior associate athletics director for varsity sports and senior woman administrator at Dartmouth before earning a promotion to executive associate athletics director for varsity sports in 2020, will serve as Vanderbilt’s deputy athletic director for internal affairs. She will represent Vanderbilt in the SEC and within the NCAA structure as senior woman administrator, a title she also held with the Big Green. Kelly’s oversight responsibilities will include various student-athlete resource areas, such as health and wellness, student services, and the David Williams II Recreation and Wellness Center. Kelly will serve as a liaison to several campus offices, including the Title IX Office and the Dean of Students.

“I’m beyond excited to have the opportunity to join the Commodore family in this role under Dr. Lee’s leadership,” Kelly said. “I not only grasp how significant Dr. Lee’s hire is to the school, the community, the SEC and the nation, but more importantly, the responsibility that comes along with it. I share in that responsibility and her vision for the future of Vanderbilt Athletics.

“I will forever treasure the time I spent at Dartmouth, which is an incredible institution with a rich tradition. However, this was an opportunity that, when presented, was not something my family and I could turn down. I hope that Commodore Nation is ready for all of my energy, enthusiasm and competitiveness.”

Both McClelland and Kelly will supervise designated varsity programs and serve on Vanderbilt Athletics’ executive team.

About Kristene Kelly

Kelly has worked within each of the NCAA’s three divisions and boasts one of the most diverse resumes of any college administrator as one of the few – even perhaps the only – to hold throughout her career the titles of sports information director, associate athletic director, senior associate athletic director, executive associate athletic director, faculty athletics representative, senior woman administrator and athletic director.

Kelly, who has nearly two decades of experience in the college ranks, arrived at Dartmouth in 2018 after spending two years as the director of athletics at Keene State College. Her first 18 months with the Big Green were spent as the senior associate athletic director before being promoted to executive associate athletic director and overseeing all varsity sports for the then 35-sport program.

During her two seasons at Keene State, where she oversaw a group of more than 35 coaches and staff competing in 18 sports for the Division III program, six programs advanced to NCAA postseason play including the 2016-17 men’s basketball team that earned a trip to the Elite Eight. Nearly 200 student-athletes were recognized as Little East Conference All-Academic performers during her tenure.

Kelly also served as associate athletic director and senior woman administrator at Saint Augustine’s as part of her 2009-16 stint in North Carolina, overseeing the day-to-day operations for the 14-sport program, directly supervising head coaches in five sports, writing all grant proposals for the department, administering all programs funded by grants and serving as deputy Title IX coordinator for athletics. Kelly earned the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Senior Woman Administrator of the Year award in 2011 and 2013.

On St. Augustine’s academic side, she also was an adjunct professor (2009-15) before being elevated to an assistant professor and department chair for sport management (2015-16) as well as the faculty athletics representative.

Kelly began her career in collegiate athletics as an academic counselor and graduate assistant at the University of Tennessee in 2001. She began working toward her master’s degree at Tennessee in human performance and sport studies, completing her degree the following year while starting a job at her alma mater as the sports information director, a post she held for over six years.

Only the second female to be named the CIAA John Holley Sports Information Director of the Year in 2005, Kelly earned her doctoral degree of education in sport management from the United States Sports Academy in 2014.

Kelly is a very active committee member within the NCAA, with service on the NCAA Woman of the Year Committee and the NCAA Division II Track and Field Committee. She served as a member of the CIAA Management Council and as a committee member for numerous CIAA championships.

Kelly has completed multiple leadership development institutes, including the NCAA Leadership Institute for Ethnic Minority Women (2007) and the NCAA/NACWAA Executive Institute for Administrative Advancement (2010). A frequent guest speaker on a variety of topics centered around college athletics that include, “Best Practices for Improving Graduation Rates,” “Title IX” and “Work Life Balance,” Kelly has also been a presenter for the Black Women in Sport Foundation’s Next Step Women of Color Mini-Forum.

A 2000 graduate of Johnson C. Smith with bachelor’s degrees in physical education (sport management) and communication arts (public relations), Kelly earned all-rookie honors on the softball team before captaining the squad as a senior. In addition to serving as a sports information intern all four years, she was also a student trainer for the football team.

Kelly is an active member of the National Association for Collegiate Directors of Athletics, Women Leaders in College Sports, Minority Opportunities in Athletics Administration and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

A native of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, Kelly is married to Jonathan Kelly Sr., and the couple has one son, Jonathan Jr.

About Tommy McClelland

McClelland led Louisiana Tech as athletic director since 2013, and the university’s athletic program thrived under his leadership, underpinned by his philosophy of building champions on the playing fields, in the classrooms and in life.

While leading Louisiana Tech into its Conference USA era, McClelland impacted the athletics department through fundraising, facility improvements, coaching hires and overall student-athlete development.

“For the past seven years Jessica, Lawson, Grayson and I have come to discover that Louisiana Tech and the Ruston community is truly a family. This is a special place with great people. I want to personally thank Dr. Les Guice for trusting me to serve as athletics director. It has been a joy to work alongside our coaches and staff as we developed our remarkable student-athletes in the classroom, on the field and in life. As we leave Louisiana Tech, we know it will forever hold a special place in our hearts and we look forward to remaining engaged as friends, fans and donors. Once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog.”

Perhaps the most tangible sign of McClelland’s impact at Louisiana Tech were the $23 million Davison Athletics Complex and $18 million press box and luxury suites at Joe Aillet Stadium. These two facilities not only changed the landscape of football game days in Ruston, but also produced more than $1.2 million in additional revenue per year for the athletics department.

Louisiana Tech achieved record numbers in private giving in each of the past five years, including a record $1.67 million in giving to the Louisiana Tech Athletics Club in 2018-19. In 2015, McClelland negotiated an exclusive apparel five-year agreement with Adidas.

Since his arrival in Ruston, Louisiana Tech experienced its most impressive run since the 1970s. Over that time, the Bulldogs boasted postseason appearances by football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball, softball, golf and track and field.

As of the start of the 2020 season, the football program was the nation’s only unit to win a bowl game in each of the past six years, with the men’s basketball squad winning 20 or more games in seven of the past eight seasons (including a 121-11 record at home) and a pair of regular season conference titles.

In addition, Louisiana Tech was one of only seven FBS programs – and one of two non-Power-5 programs – with at least nine football wins, 20 men’s basketball wins, 35 baseball wins and 35 softball wins during the 2016-17 campaign. That same season, Louisiana Tech became only the second C-USA program ever to finish in the league’s top five in football, women’s basketball, men’s basketball, baseball, softball and soccer.

In 2015-16 Louisiana Tech joined Florida, Florida State, Ohio State and Ole Miss as the only five FBS programs to record at least nine wins in football, 20 wins in men’s basketball and 40 wins in baseball. It was also one of only 12 FBS programs to advance to postseason in each of those three sports.

Off the field, Louisiana Tech student-athletes have blossomed in the classroom under McClelland’s direction with nearly 1,200 student-athletes recognized on the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll, including a record 212 in 2018-19.

Louisiana Tech continued to earn high marks in both the NCAA’s Academic Progress Report and Graduation Success Rate with McClelland at the helm.

McClelland also groomed a pair of athletic directors in Lamar’s Marco Born and Florida Atlantic’s Brian White. Both Born and White served on McClelland’s senior staff.

McClelland made a national name for himself after quickly elevating to McNeese State’s director of athletics chair at age 26, and his work earned high praise from high-profile and experienced athletic administrators across the country. Prior to being named athletic director at McNeese State in 2008, McClelland served as the department’s interim athletic director and assistant athletic director of internal affairs.

McClelland and his McNeese State staff raised more than $3 million in private donations, and he was instrumental in increasing corporate sponsorships to nearly $1 million annually while securing new clients and multi-year sponsorships.

The native of Basile, Louisiana, served as an athletics graduate assistant at Northwestern State and worked at the Southland Conference office as an administrative intern.

McClelland earned his bachelor’s degree from Northwestern State in 2004 and completed his master’s degree in sports administration in 2005. He walked on to the Demons football team and eventually earned a scholarship. He also competed in the javelin for the Northwestern State track and field team.

McClelland is also a 2012 graduate of the Executive Program of the Sports Management Institute and attended instruction at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.

McClelland is married to the former Jessica Stokes of Garrison, Texas. They have two sons, Lawson and Grayson.