Career moves help shape Wilcox’s management style
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Kevin White, the man that Stan Wilcox would say played a huge role in his development as an athletic director, hasn’t seen his protégé run a staff meeting as athletic director at FSU.
White has a pretty good idea, though. He’d bet that Wilcox doesn’t do much talking when his staff gathers to find answers to any issue, said White, current athletic director at Duke University.
“He would know everybody that came to that table and he would have empathy for every one of them,” White said. “He would have a terrific understanding that he needed to listen to make sure their opinions registered. Everybody would be engaged.”
That ability is something that Wilcox developed going back to his days as a standout high school player in Babylon, Long Island. What he is demonstrating as an athletic director is a mix of his experience as an attorney and a former athlete, Wilcox said.
FSU hired Wilcox as its athletic director five years ago and he’s since had an impact on every sport. He’s won raved reviews for making one of the biggest hires in college sports when he lured Willie Taggart from Oregon to become head football coach at FSU.
Wilcox, 59, has made such an impression on college athletics, going back to his days when he worked with the NCAA’s legal team, making him an easy choice for the Capital Outlook’s 2017 Person of the Year.
“I’m totally flattered,” Wilcox said of the honor. “It’s a total honor to be recognized as the person of the year. I never would have thought I would have gotten that kind of accolade. My intent always is to do my job the best I could possibly do.”
He went on to defer the credit for the honor to his staff. Involving others in his success is a trait that his middle school coach Joe Pelicane said Wilcox developed at an early age.
“He never brought attention to himself,” Pelicane said. “He never was a self-promoter. He never asked how many points did I score. He always deflected that to his teammates.”
His talent was exceptional, too. So much so that he was nicknamed “Silk”.
“Stan was always team oriented,” Pelicane said. “He was an excellent defender; he could handle a basketball, make shots. He wasn’t just a number; a one or a two. He could do whatever you wanted.”
He grew into being one of the best high school basketball players in the country and was highly recruited. By the time he reached his senior year, his high school team had won a state championship and he had more than 200 colleges and universities recruiting him.
Rutgers and Syracuse pursued him heavily, but he eventually settled on Notre Dame. His impact was immediate, helping the Fighting Irish to the NCAA Tournament Final Four.
Wilcox found himself with a bit of a conundrum after graduating from Notre Dame – he had gotten married his senior year and not long after had a child. He had to decide whether to try playing basketball overseas or get a job.
He did the latter. But only briefly before going to law school. At the same time he worked with an investment firm. At the urging of one of the firm’s partners, he took a job working for a judge.
Graduation from law school meant Wilcox had another decision to make about his future employment. Following the recommendation of a friend, he successfully applied for a job with the NCAA. He ended up on its legal team.
It was his dream job at the time.
“As a former athlete, I always felt there was a perspective I could offer in helping make positive changes in collegiate athletics,” Wilcox said. “When I found out that the NCAA hired attorneys, it seemed to be the perfect marriage for me.”
Wilcox eventually made career stops at Duke as a deputy athletic director and the Big East as an associate commissioner.
Wilcox’s bio also lists his involvement as a member of the NCAA Administrative Cabinet; NCAA Football Oversight Committee; Internal ACC Network Content Committee; US Olympic Committee Collegiate Advisory Council; Chair of the ACC Women’s Basketball Committee; and, LEAD1 Board of Directors.
While having so many responsibilities might seem like an overload, Wilcox uses the same traits he developed early in his life to find success. Those who know him said he is driven by his competitive spirit.
True to his character, Wilcox never misses an opportunity to tell student athletes how to get it done.
“I tell my student athletes today to realize that the same way you practice and compete on the playing field to be a starter against your competition; all those things you do to be the best,” he said. “You have to apply the same principles in the classroom to be the best because in the classroom you’re in competition with other students.”