magazine-category: Alumni

Big Steps for the Big South

Alumna Sherika Montgomery Chosen to Lead Conference

For Gardner-Webb University alumna and former-student athlete Sherika Montgomery, the Big South Conference has been intrinsically connected to her personal and professional path. Now, as Montgomery takes on the role of commissioner of the Big South, she looks forward to giving back to a community that invested in her during her time as a student-athlete.

“Having the opportunity to serve as commissioner and to continue to work alongside our constituencies and lead that forward progress is tremendous,” Montgomery said.

Stepping into the position formerly held by Kyle Kallander as he retired after 27 years, Montgomery is the fourth commissioner of the league, which was founded in 1983. She previously worked for the Big South from 2010-17 in various positions, including assistant commissioner for compliance and senior woman administrator. During that time, Montgomery was a two-time chair of the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics, as well as an inaugural member of the NCAA Board of Governors Ad Hoc Committee to Promote Cultural Diversity and Equity. Additionally, she was honored on the Top 25 Women in Higher Education and Beyond list by Diverse Education in 2016. Montgomery also spent time with the Summit League as associate commissioner for governance and compliance in 2018-19. In 2021, she began a stint with the Missouri Valley Conference as associate commissioner and senior woman administrator, ultimately being appointed deputy commissioner last year.

Kallander voiced his support for Montgomery as she stepped into the post of commissioner. “Sherika Montgomery is an amazing talent and will be outstanding in leading the Conference into the future,” Kallander said. “She has tremendous people skills, wonderful insight and integrity, and has the intangibles that are often overlooked in great leaders. She just gets it. Plus, to have an alum of the Big South return to take the reins is truly special.”

Gardner-Webb President Dr. William Downs also expressed his faith in Montgomery. “Having served on the search committee and as a member of the group of Big South Conference CEOs that selected our new commissioner, I can confirm that Sherika Montgomery rose to the top of an outstanding pool of candidates,” Downs said. “She brings energy, vision, and significant experience to this leadership position at a critical time for college athletics. I am confident that she is the right person at the right time for our conference, and I am eager to see our competitiveness and our brand strengthen in the years ahead.”

Montgomery played basketball at Gardner-Webb, and was a member of the 2010 Big South Conference regular season championship team that finished with a record of 28-5. She graduated from Gardner-Webb with a bachelor’s degree in sport management and a minor in recreation in 2009, and returned to earn her master’s in sport science/pedagogy in 2011.

Montgomery noted the significant lessons of resilience and discipline she learned as a student-athlete and the perseverance she harvested on and off the court are traits she continues to apply to every effort. “You will ultimately attain that goal or come really, really close based on some of those key characteristics that started during my time at Gardner-Webb University as a student-athlete,” Montgomery said.

In the ever-evolving landscape of collegiate athletics, Montgomery mentions the importance of taking the time to listen and gain an understanding of the needs of community leaders and stakeholders on campuses. She says that it is through the understanding of others that her decision-making as a leader of the conference and advocate for each school is enhanced.

Advocating for a holistic focus on the student-athletes of the Big South and keeping a pulse on all facets of their health (in the classroom and on the fields of play), Montgomery aims to display an intentionality in her approach to leadership. She wants student-athletes to gain the most out of their experiences, which she understands firsthand to be moments that will impact the rest of their lives and careers. “I bring what I call that level of relatability, and being able to resonate with so many different constituencies because of those experiences … I think that’s going to serve me tremendously,” Montgomery said. “When it comes to being Big South made, I’m a testament to that.”

*The Big South Conference has 10 full-time member institutions, and six associate members located in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

Written by Thomas Manning ‘22

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