NJCU introduces new Athletic Director Shawn Tucker
On Monday, April 30 at the John J. Moore Athletics and Fitness Center in Jersey City, New Jersey City University formally introduced Shawn Tucker as their new Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics. Tucker will officially begin his tenure at NJCU on Monday, May 7.
Named only the fifth athletic director at NJCU since 1934, Tucker made history becoming the first African-American athletic director in Gothic Knights history, serve in an expanded role of associate vice president at NJCU and only current minority to hold the position in New Jersey Athletic Conference. At 33-years old, Tucker is one of the youngest athletic directors in NCAA Division III.
Before a meet and greet with student-athletes, alumni and administrative officials, Tucker sat down with the media to discuss the historical significance of becoming the newest athletic director at NJCU, his decision to accept the position and vision for the Gothic Knights athletic program.
“Absolutely an honor and I don’t just represent my family but race, a Jamaican-American and proud to be that and representing my family,” said Tucker. “The title of first African-American athletic director is exciting and thrilling but I also look at it I have a job to do while carrying with the me the weight that anytime I go into a meeting and engaging with our student-athletes and staff I’m putting my best foot forward for NJCU athletes, family and program. I didn’t get to this position by myself and there are so many people in this journey the last 10 to 15 years that did allowed me to be in this position of leadership.”
Regarding his decision to accept the position at NJCU, Tucker said he felt an absolute connection to sophomore men’s basketball player Sam Toney, the 2018 NJAC Player of the Year and First-Team All-NJAC, watching a YouTube.com story about Toney’s struggles living in 50 plus foster homes.
“A little past 11:15 on February 9, I put my sons’ Javier and Miguel to sleep,” he explained. “Five minutes later I was doing some research on NJCU and came across the video on Sam that is five minutes and four seconds exact and him wearing an NJCU green hoodie. Sitting beside his foster daddy and sharing his personal journey touched me. From an unstable foundation to a star player and all-conference performer and embodying what is means to be resilient, have pride and commitment despite a winding road.”
“It’s all about the student-athlete experience and that gets under valued and overlooked. It was not just about Sam’s athletic ability but coming from an unstable upbringing but demonstrating resiliency. Coach (Marc) Brown has played an important role in his growth and development.”
Tucker also sees an advantage in his experience working with at risk youth in Newark with juveniles transitioning from juvenile detention centers back into the public school system.
“It was difficult seeing re-offenders coming in and out of the office. There were moments of adulation seeing seniors graduate with their high school diplomas. Regardless of the outcome, at the age of 23 I had an emotional attachment to lead and serve.”
Currently the Associate Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Development at Rutgers University, Tucker relishes in the leadership role and creation of the Rutgers Leadership Academy.
“I’m a big leadership guy having studied and loved it. I love the impact the leadership can have on any organization so I look forward to bringing those principles and state of mind into NJCU. I developed and launched the Rutgers Leadership Academy program in 2009 and goal of the program was to develop our athletes in areas of career, personal leadership and community engagement. We implemented this curriculum with over 50 workshops where our athletes were trained in those areas outside of being on the field or competition on the court. We wanted to make sure we were developing men and women to be successful outside of their sport.”
Recognizing the challenges that lay ahead supporting 200 student-athletes at NJCU, Tucker felt the press conference was important, to get in front of the student-athletes, meet with staff to hear stories of things that have gone well and see where improvements can be made and meet with coached and administration.
“When you establish culture within the departments, everything is fed into the bloodstream of the department and is functioning at a high level. Culture is needed to create collaboration across campus, re-engaging alumni and bringing conference championships. We want to set a level of expectations where student-athletes are transitioning with their degrees and career plans finalized. It starts with the coaches and administration then student-athletes buying into that model and vision.”