Business of Sports : Pac-12 hires Quashan Lockett to fill newly created position focused on people and inclusion

Arizona Sports News online

Quashan Lockett was in the car headed home on June 30 when a news alert flashed on his phone that USC and UCLA were joining the Big Ten. His initial reaction mirrored that of so many others, but with a twist:

Just two weeks earlier, Lockett had been hired by the Pac-12 conference office for an executive role.

“I was like, ‘Whoa.’ And then you wonder, ‘What’s going on? Is there even going to be a Pac-12?’” he recalled.

“But then you kind of let things settle in and realize everything will be fine. I’m not going to the Pac-12 because of any one school. I’m going to make sure the athletes are front and center.”

In the role, Lockett will work with both conference employees and the campuses on matters ranging from human resources to talent development to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB).

Lockett, 38, has spent his career in the sports and entertainment world, most recently as the Global Head of Human Resources at On Location, a hospitality company.

“It’s difficult to separate DEIB from the broader work of traditional human resources,’’ Kliavkoff. “So we wanted to elevate that role and have someone who wakes us every day thinking about our human capital.

“Quashan has incredible leadership and a calming ability. Particularly given the current cycle, it’s important to have someone with those skills.”

With Lockett’s arrival following a months-long search, the Pac-12 joins the Big Ten as the only Power Five conferences with senior executives in roles dedicated to the people, inclusion and culture space.

His background is a mix of human resources and DEIB, plus organizational development — areas in need of modernization throughout college athletics.

“Realignment is an example of the rapid change taking place,” said Lockett, who has a master’s degree in organizational psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

“The business model is not where it needs to be. I think my experience building organizations will help bring the conference into the current century and make sure the student-athletes succeed.

“We need to recruit people, develop talent, prepare people for careers, help the student-athletes and work with the schools.”

The conference has been doing that work — just not with a dedicated position.

“Discussions started summer 2020 after the death of George Floyd. That was really a call to action for us,” said Teresa Gould, the Pac-12’s deputy commissioner for sports management and institutional services.

Gould filled the role on an interim basis even though the university presidents and chancellors approved the hiring of a standalone senior position during the final months of former commissioner Larry Scott’s tenure.

“Larry felt like the new commissioner should make the hire,” said Kliavkoff, whose tenure began last summer.

“We were looking for a unicorn, someone with the acumen of traditional human resources who also has deep DEIB chops. When the search firm (Turnkey) found Quashan, we knew we had that person.”

Lockett, who lives in Texas, is also the founder of Color of Sports, described on his LinkedIn page as “a purpose driven change agency.” With the Pac-12, his focus will extend beyond the conference staff to the athletics departments.

Combine the increased attention on social justice issues with the economic reforms rapidly unfolding throughout college athletics (for example: name, image and likeness), and the need to provide support services for athletes has never been greater.

In some regards, the Pac-12 is late to the game on this matter. Then again, so is everyone in college athletics.

Lockett’s only Power Five equivalent, Omar Brown, the Big Ten’s senior vice president/people and culture officer, was hired last year.

“We need someone on this every day,” Gould said, “so we can supplement what (the campuses) are doing. What levers do we have from the center versus the things that they can do?

“It’s clear to me that Quashan is very passionate about where DEIB sits within the mission of the conference.”

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