SWAC names new headquarters after former commissioner

SWAC will name it’s new office headquarters after Dr. James Frank, first African-American president for NCAA.

Courtesy of Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.- The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Council of Presidents and Chancellors has announced the naming of the building that currently serves as the headquarters for league operations.
The conference office headquarters located in Birmingham, Alabama has officially been named the “Dr. James Frank Building” in honor and recognition of Dr. James Frank who served as SWAC Commissioner from 1983-1998.  
“Dr. Frank’s impact and legacy with the NCAA and the Southwestern Athletic Conference is truly remarkable,” said SWAC Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland. “He was a true pioneer in the field of collegiate athletics and his vision and legacy continues to positively impact countless student-athletes both past and present.”

“The Southwestern Athletic Conference will forever be indebted to Dr. Frank and his contributions to our league. The naming of our conference headquarters in his honor is truly fitting and undoubtedly well-deserved as we look to continually honor the historic contributions he made that have helped shape our conference into what it is today.” 

Dr. Frank began his educational career when he was awarded a four-year basketball scholarship to Lincoln University in Missouri, eventually becoming captain of the basketball team. After graduation, Dr. Frank served two years as a first lieutenant in the Army Corp of Engineers before earning a master’s in education from Springfield College in Massachusetts. 

In the early 1970s, Dr. Frank served as Dean of Students and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York. He later served as assistant basketball coach at Lincoln University before being named head coach and ultimately the college’s President. 

Dr. Frank’s many notable accomplishments include serving as the first African-American President of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Under Frank’s leadership, the NCAA became more inclusive of women’s sports. Dr. Frank first served as secretary-treasurer before taking the office of the President. He believed during his tenure that “’ separate but equal’ does not lead to equality.”

He led the NCAA Planning Committee which eventually led to a demographic change in Association leadership. Dr. Frank was also named one of the NCAA’s 100 Most Influential Student-Athletes and in 2007, he won the NCAA’s prestigious Gerald R. Ford Award.

During Dr. Frank’s presidency, he was a significant influence in defining NCAA decisions:

  • Dr. Frank chaired the governance subcommittee and oversaw the governance plan that defined how and when women sports and championships would become part of the NCAA.
  • He presided over the passing of Proposition 48, the legislation that set eligibility standards for incoming freshman student-athletes, which resulted in raising graduation rates.
  • Dr. Frank facilitated enhanced presidential collaboration through the NCAA Long-Range Planning Committee that led to a demographic change in Association leadership.
  • He was integral in the NCAA’s establishment of the Minority Opportunities and Interest Committee, a group devoted to inclusiveness in Association policy decisions.

From 1983 until his retirement in 1998, Dr. Frank served as Commissioner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). He returned to the position as Interim Commissioner in April 2001, where he served for 20 months. During his guidance, the conference evolved to rank among the elite in the nation.

During Dr. Frank’s tenure as SWAC Commissioner, he was credited with: 

  • Providing stable leadership during the conference’s early years as an NCAA Division I member.
  • Spearheading conference expansion with the additions of Alabama State, Alabama A&M and Arkansas-Pine Bluff as new members.
  • Placing emphasis on gender equity and diversity by highlighting and expanding women’s sports sponsorship during his tenure.
  • Operating the Conference Office in a financially prudent manner during his tenure. 
James Frank

Dr. James Frank was one of a few individuals who elevated through the collegiate ranks as a student-athlete, coach, educator, college president, and conference commissioner. During a long and distinguished career of over 50 years, Frank’s efforts and influential leadership touched the lives of countless people and resulted in positive changes in the many organizations he served.
A formal ceremony recognizing the naming of the league’s headquarters in honor of Dr. Frank will be held at a later date.

SWAC names new headquarters after former commissioner
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