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Austin accepts Duke post

Longwood University announced in a press release Tuesday that following a transformative tenure in which he elevated Longwood athletics from a transitioning NCAA Division I program to a multi-time championship department, Athletics Director Troy Austin is returning to his alma mater, Duke University, to become its senior associate athletics director for internal operations.

Officials said in the release that Austin will step down from his position at Longwood — a post he has held for more than a decade — and pass the reins to Deputy Athletics Director Michelle Meadows Shular, who will step in as interim athletics director in mid-October.

In a message to campus Tuesday, Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV said he would be saddened by the departure of such a close friend and colleague, but was grateful for Austin’s extraordinary tenure of leadership and understood that Duke “has always provided the pull of home even as Longwood became home too.”

“Troy is a wonderful friend and colleague, and we will miss him tremendously,” Reveley said in the release. “He has led with integrity and infused Longwood’s citizen-leadership mission throughout the athletics program. The remarkable foundation he’s built includes most of all a gifted team of people, including today’s enormously strong coaching staff and an up-and-coming generation of administrative talent led by Michelle Shular.”

“The ship will be in excellent hands,” Reveley said.

Austin joined Longwood athletics as interim athletics director in 2006 and was elevated to the role full time in 2008, the release stated. Officials added that he leaves behind a legacy marked by the development of well-rounded student-athletes and citizen-leaders, along with the establishment of Longwood as a competitive Division I institution after securing the institution’s full Division I certification in 2007 and the school’s membership in the Big South Conference in 2012.

“This is a bittersweet day,” Austin said in the release. “I have spent more than a decade calling myself a Lancer, celebrating our wins, commiserating our losses and working alongside fantastic people and students who make Longwood University the special place that it is.

“Athletics is a profession where there is always more to be achieved, and this was a truly difficult decision for my family and me, both personally and professionally,” he continued. “I have been fortunate to witness this department grow from fledgling newcomer into legitimate contender at the Division I level, and while our student-athletes and coaches sacrificed much in those early days of our transition, the payoff has been grand.

“I have seen Longwood make Cinderella runs, hoist championship trophies and play on national television and in NCAA postseasons. But most rewarding during my time here has been watching the growth of our student-athletes. There is nothing quite like seeing gifted, talented but raw athletes and people transform into confident, capable men and women under the influence of Longwood’s dedicated coaches, staff and faculty. Student-athlete development has always been at the heart of the Longwood athletics mission, and I am confident that the department is in capable hands to continue that charge.”

Currently a member of the NCAA Division I Council and formerly the president of the Division I-AAA Athletics Director Association, Austin has overseen two significant periods in the history of Longwood athletics, officials cited in the release. They noted that in his first year, Austin took the helm during the final year of Longwood’s NCAA-mandated three-year Division I transition period and finalized the Lancers’ full Division I certification in July 2007. He then successfully ushered Longwood into the Big South era, obtaining the university’s full-time membership in the conference in July 2012.

In just six years since, Longwood has emerged as a conference championship contender in multiple sports, winning four Big South Softball Championships and achieving earned bids to five NCAA Championship tournaments — four softball and one men’s golf, the release highlighted. It further indicated that the Lancers have also reached Big South Championship games in four sports: women’s basketball, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and softball.

Additionally, Austin has overseen numerous initiatives and programs that benefit the growth and well-being of Longwood’s student-athletes, including the establishment of the Student-Athlete Enhancement Unit, the Lancer Leadership Program and the implementation of the NCAA Life Skills Program, university officials stated.

At Duke, Austin will return to the school where he earned his Bachelor of Science in sociology in 2000 and lettered four years on the football team, including his senior year when he served as team captain, the release noted. It continued by citing that Austin, the recipient of Duke’s prestigious William J. Griffith Service Award as a senior, will join a Duke athletics department that has won seven NCAA Championships over the past 10 years and earned a pair of top-10 finishes in the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Director’s Cup during that time.

Officials said in the release that in his new role, Austin will serve on the Duke athletics department’s senior leadership council under the direction of Vice President and Director of Athletics Kevin White, who was named Sports Business Journal’s Athletic Director of the Year in 2015. Austin’s oversight will include human resources, athletic medicine, sports performance, sports nutrition, behavioral health and equipment, while also serving as the lead sport administrator for the men’s and women’s cross country and track and field programs.

The release concluded by stating that Austin will depart Longwood in the midst of a fall season in which the Lancer field hockey program is ranked No. 19 nationally in the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index, women’s soccer was voted No. 2 in the preseason coaches poll, Longwood men’s soccer sits among the top three in the Big South standings and goals leaderboard and Longwood cross country has already seen three freshmen crack the top 10 on the program’s all-time 6K list.