Q + A With William Broussard | Southern University AD Leads with Head, Hands and Heart

Southern University Athletic Director William Broussard, Ph.D. is as smart as he is determined. As one of the nation’s most successful ADs, the 35 years young Broussard ushered the Jaguars to regular season and conference championships in football and men’s and women’s basketball. All the while, he’s successfully increased fundraising and leveraged his journalism background to garner media coverage of the Jaguars’ program. Last week, the SU Board of Supervisors voted to extend his contract through 2017. The move comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with Broussard’s successes on and off tracks, fields and courts of student play. It’s a story that begins with two HBCU alumni parents and the indelible mark they left on their son. 

William Broussard

HBCUSTORY: I understand that your dad attended Grambling on a basketball scholarship, and was the first in his family to attend college and that your mom also attended an HBCU. Can you tell us more about them and their HBCUstory? How did their careers as teachers impacted you?

My mother also attended Grambling and was Ms. Grambling in 1967. Dad played basketball there and they both, upon graduation, attended graduate school (at McNeese and UL-Lafayette) and began their careers as teachers & administrators. I simply didn’t know anyone more revered and well-respected than they were, and their lives and careers suggested you could be servant leaders and earn a comfortable salary and serve your community through a life in public education.

HBCUSTORY: Please tell the story of how your first undergraduate football game against Southern. How did you manage to not attend Grambling or Southern?

My first game was a sellout crowd at Northwestern State University and the largest attended crowd in the school’s history. I was a walk-on, backup center and actually played about 20 snaps in the game when the starter was injured. We won the game and it began a fascination with Southern University as we played them each of the next three years, splitting the series 2-2. The atmosphere was always electrifying, the band was always entertaining, and the Jaguar Nation was always a worthy 12th Man.

Coach Robinson liked his offensive linemen substantially larger than I (I played between 250-265 lbs) and Coach Richardson offered me a 1/2 scholarship, but between my acceptance of a full academic scholarship to the Louisiana Scholars’ College (on campus at Northwestern State) and my mother’s interference with Southern’s attempts to contact me (a proud Gramblinite, she deleted voice mails and trashed recruitment letters from Southern)! I ended up attending a PWI.

HBCUSTORY: What are you challenges of running the athletic department at Southern? Do you see yourself more as a CEO or the old school AD? And how much time do you spend fundraising to the community and alumni base?

The challenges are considerable, and ever transforming. Short staff and limited resources means I wear multiple hats.  The crushing, long weeks (a typical work week is 70-80 hours, 7 days a week) means that life-career balance is difficult, and it is a challenge and unfortunate reality that I don’t have enough time to develop relationships with staff, coaches and student athletes (certainly not as much as I’d like). Finally, we struggle to transform pernicious cultural elements (lack of giving, perception that tickets are “free”, etc) while maintaining those which are critical to the stories we need to tell–not to mention finding the time and venues in which to tell them!

I spend time every day raising money. I don’t go home without asking for money once–its a personal commitment to the organization and students I represent.

Southern breaks ground on new baseball fieldhouse. Broussard is pictured in the foreground on the far right.
Southern breaks ground on new baseball fieldhouse. Broussard is pictured in the foreground on the far right.

HBCUSTORY: What are you thoughts on the challenges for HBCU athletics. Will the SWAC and MEAC be able to survive without the lucrative TV deals other conferences (BIG 10, SEC, ACC) are receiving?

Yes, but I’m of the mind that a) we have an extremely marketable athletic and cultural experience and we need to continue to stress that and b) simply surviving is no reason to work as hard as we do to grow our programs. We must thrive.

HBCUSTORY: How can HBCUs generate revenue to continue funding athletic departments?

It isn’t rocket science. Build trust among your core constituents and identify projects and programs they will support; reach out further to identify programmatic support opportunities that are attractive to campus, public private, municipal, or legislative funding initiatives; create attractive and diverse ticket packages that caste a wide socio-economic net, and finally, identify small business and corporate prospects that will identify with and ally themselves to our programs.

HBCUSTORY: Should HBCU athletic conferences (SWAC, MEAC + CIAA) market their conferences to gain a TV deal with a network other than ESPN?

Yes, though, there’s value in emphasizing partnerships with ESPN. Its the widest audience and world leader. We need a place at that table–but there are many other tables.

HBCUSTORY: Do you see the future of collegiate athletes being paid?

No and I’ll spend a lifetime railing against it. A central tenet of the NCAA is amatuerism. We need a space for that in American popular sport.

HBCUSTORY: Do you see a future for FCS football programs or will it be a system of just big dollar programs?

I’m hopeful FCS will always exist. As an FCS football alum, there’s something truly special about football played at that level–its purer, more fan friendly, special in a number of ways that are too many to enumerate here.

HBCUSTORY: Given your parents’ HBCUstory, and your own decision to attend and play sports at a traditionally white institution, how can (and/or do) you successfully market Southern (+HBCUs in general) to prospective athletes?

The same way that college was marketed to me.  We have a special educational experience to offer and one that continues to resonate with young men and women–an increasingly, young men and women from diverse ethnic, cultural, and geographical backgrounds.

WIlliam Broussard HeadshotWilliam Broussard, Ph.D. has served as Director of Athletics at Southern University since 2012. During his tenure, six Jaguar teams (Women’s Soccer, Women’s Tennis, Football, Men’s Basketball, Women’s Basketball, and Baseball) have won a total of 10 divisional, regular season, or conference tournament championships. He previously served as athletic director at Centenary College (La.) and stints as athletic administrator and professor/lecturer in English and Journalism at the University of Arizona, Pima College, and Northwestern State (La.). Follow him on Twitter at @Jag_Me_Out