In this episode, Ira Zeff talks about his journey from basketball coach to director of athletics, NWU’s transition from a dual NAIA/NCAA member to a full-time Division III member of the Iowa Conference and his thoughts on leadership in collegiate athletics today.
Dr. Ira Zeff is the Director of Athletics at Nebraska Wesleyan University, where he oversees 22 intercollegiate sports (11 for men and 11 for women).
Since Zeff was hired in August 1998, Nebraska Wesleyan has consistently ranked among the NCAA Division III leaders in the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings.
He recently helped Nebraska Wesleyan transition from the only dual affiliated school remaining in the country to joining the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and a full-time member of NCAA III on July 1, 2016.
NWU claimed its conference All-Sports Trophy six times under Zeff, despite being the lone school not giving athletic scholarships in the Great Plains Athletic Conference, which was composed of 11 NAIA member institutions.
At NWU Zeff has overseen many improvements to Nebraska Wesleyan’s athletic facilities. Most recently, installed new FieldTurf on Abel Stadium (2013), completed the new Woody Greeno Track (2011), coordinated a new video replay board scoreboard in Abel Stadium (2009), the resurfacing project on the floor in Knight Fieldhouse (2005) and construction of the baseball team’s new home facility (2004). Prior to that, Zeff oversaw the installation of Fieldturf™ and lights within Abel Stadium (2002). Lights were also added to the Harold G. Chaffee Field, just north of the Weary Center for Health & Fitness.
Zeff served as the past chair of the NCAA Division III Championships Committee. In addition, Zeff served as chair of the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Committee for two years and was chair of the West Region Advisory Committee for four years. He was selected to serve a four-year term on the NCAA Div. III Championships Committee and received an Outstanding Service Award from the NABC in 2007. He is also an active member of NACDA and past vice president for the Association of Division III Independents.
He previously served as athletic director at Blackburn College in Carlinville, Ill., for seven years. In addition to directing a 12-sport athletic program, Zeff served as the head men’s basketball coach at Blackburn. His basketball teams won three St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) championships and placed fourth in the National Small College Athletic Association (NSCAA) championships three times. He was a member of the NCAA Div. III Midwest Region basketball committee and the NSCAA district director for men’s and women’s basketball from 1993 to 1996.
A native of Cincinnati, Zeff earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1974 at The College of Wooster, his master of education in physical education at East Stroudsburg University (Pa.) in 1975 and his Ph.D. in physical education at the University of New Mexico in 1985. While at New Mexico, he was an assistant men’s basketball coach for six years.
[Courtesy: NWU website]