In April 2018, Gloria Nevarez was selected to serve as the fourth full-time Commissioner in the 66-year history of the West Coast Conference. Nevarez is one of nine female conference commissioners currently serving in Division I Athletics and is the first Latin American to ascend to the commissioner's chair in Division I. She is currently serving on the NCAA’s Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee, a group responsible for Division I men’s basketball policy, as well as the NCAA Transfer Working Group.
Since becoming Commissioner, Nevarez has shaped nearly every facet of the internal and external operations of the Conference. In the last two years, she has directed major overhauls to the conference’s branding, expanding the league’s national television contracts, adding a long-term title sponsor for the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and launching groundbreaking social justice initiatives. She represents the Conference on national policy issues and advises WCC Presidents on current issues such as NCAA policy development on name, image and likeness, the evolving transfer rules and social justice initiatives.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Nevarez guided the conference to a safe conclusion of the 2020 UCU WCC Basketball Tournaments working in conjunction with local and state health agencies. In the weeks and months following the subsequent shutdown of collegiate sports, Nevarez worked tirelessly with university presidents and athletic directors to ensure that the WCC is represented on the national, state and local levels in determining when and how competition can resume safely. In addition, Nevarez closed the in-person conference office and guided the WCC staff to a remote model emphasizing maximum flexibility and extensive collaboration.
Under Nevarez’ leadership, the WCC became the first Division I conference to adopt a diversity hiring initiative, the groundbreaking “Russell Rule” adopted in July of 2020. All WCC schools are required to include a member of a traditionally underrepresented community in the final candidate pool for every athletic director, senior administrator, head coach and full-time assistant coaching search. Named in honor of legendary Bill Russell – a two-time WCC and NCAA Champion, Olympic Gold Medalist and 11-time NBA Champion – the rule will be monitored by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) founded by Dr. Richard Lapchick, which will produce an annual race and gender report card for the WCC and its member institutions.
Directed by Nevarez, the WCC embarked on a comprehensive rebranding initiative to bring consistency across all platforms. After an exhaustive and collaborative six-month review with WCC stakeholders, the brand, reflective of the mission and values of the WCC schools was refreshed with a new brand identity.
In her second full year on the job, Nevarez renegotiated the media rights agreement for the Conference, resulting in unprecedented levels of national exposure for the league, including an updated eight year agreement with ESPN and the addition of two national television partners in CBS Sports and Stadium. The exposure of WCC’s men’s basketball has nearly doubled from coast-to-coast.
WCC Basketball has enjoyed a long history of success in Las Vegas and Nevarez strengthened those relationships, securing University Credit Union (UCU) as a long-term title sponsor for the 2019 WCC Championship events and signing a contract extension with the Orleans Arena, home for the WCC men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. Last season, the Conference significantly enhanced the fan experience and increased engagement initiatives in Las Vegas.
While the 2020 winter and springs seasons were largely overshadowed by the COVID-19 global pandemic, the WCC Presidents and Nevarez made significant positive changes to its governance structure with an emphasis on social justice initiatives, promoting the voices of student-athletes at the conference level and unveiling the Ethnic Diversity Initiative (EDI) with the groundbreaking “Russell Rule” at the forefront.
In June of 2019, student-athletes were added to the governance structure at conference-wide executive meetings. The WCC STARS are included in all WCC Council governance meetings to ensure that the voices of the student-athletes are heard during the decision-making process that impacts their campus experiences. The league also sent representatives from each member school to a mental health summit to collaborate on learnings and best practices.
In November of 2019, the WCC launched its first foray into the esports space with six institutions sponsoring teams competing in multiple tournaments capped by the 2020 College League of Legends Season.
Nevarez returned to the WCC following a successful stint as the Senior Associate Commissioner, Senior Woman Administrator at the Pac-12 Conference. In her role, Nevarez oversaw all conference sports and championships except football, while also serving as the conference liaison for men’s basketball and tournament director of the men’s basketball tournament in Las Vegas. Nevarez led all-star teams to China and Australia and brought conference teams to China for the first-ever NCAA regular season game. During her tenure at the Pac-12, Nevarez was instrumental in league expansion, the relocation and success of both the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, the creation and operation of the Pac-12 Networks, the development of international initiatives and advanced the conference’s sustainability efforts.
Prior to joining the Pac-10 staff, Nevarez served as Senior Associate Athletic Director at the University of Oklahoma. Her responsibilities were wide-ranging, including sport administration duties and overseeing the department’s strength and conditioning, marketing and human resources units. She also served as the sport administrator for men's and women's basketball, men's and women's cross country, soccer, men's and women's track and field, softball and women's rowing. Nevarez served Oklahoma as the senior woman administrator and oversaw the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, the department's Staff Council, Title IX compliance and worked with the fundraising group, the Sooner Stilettos.
Before her time at Oklahoma, Nevarez spent five years working in compliance at the West Coast Conference, joining the conference in January of 2002. During her first stint at the WCC, her primary emphasis was to direct the conference's compliance efforts. In that role, she was involved in education efforts at all member institutions as well as in the league office. She assisted the schools with their individual certification efforts, violations, waivers and rule interpretations.
Prior to the WCC, Nevarez was at the University of California where she served in multiple roles. She was the lone compliance officer and served as an executive officer for the department and its 29 intercollegiate athletics teams. She conducted NCAA and Pac-10 rules education workshops for student-athletes, coaches and department staff on an annual basis. Nevarez was also involved with legal matters that involved the department, including lawsuits, serving as the department's campus liaison in those matters. She was responsible for processing all departmental contracts, including game contracts, and served as the department's campus contact for all athletic related contracts. Her efforts at Cal went beyond the legal realm as she served as co-coordinator of the team that conceived and ran the first Cy-Bear auction, the first time a collegiate entity had partnered with an online group – Yahoo! – to host an online auction, raising more than $180,000.
Nevarez began her athletics administrative career at San Jose State University where she was the first full-time Director of Compliance in school history and developed and implemented an NCAA compliance program
A graduate of the NCAA Fellows Program and the NACWAA Executive Institute, Nevarez completed five years as an adjunct faculty member at the University of San Francisco’s Sport Management Master's program, teaching sport law.
Nevarez received her Juris Doctorate from the University of California. While a student, she served on the La Raza Law Journal and was a co-founder of the Boalt Hall Sport and Entertainment Law Society. A four-year scholarship athlete and letter-winner in basketball at the University of Massachusetts, she graduated cum laude from UMass. She served on the board of advisors for the UMass sports management department, a division of the Isenberg School of Business.
A native of Santa Clara, Calif., Nevarez is married to fellow Berkeley Law graduate, Richard Young.
Has the “Moment” Become a Sustainable Movement?
Social and cultural change found unprecedented momentum in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in May 2020. This session will explore the progress that has been made and the work that is left to be done making the sports industry more diverse, inclusive and equitable.
Moderator: Diahann Billings-Burford, CEO, RISE