Sports Odds and Ends
Jax Collins is one of a three-person MIAC staff that includes Commissioner Dan McKane and Associate Commissioner BJ Pickard. She was hired August 1, after working at Vanderbilt University, first as assistant and then director of student-athlete development, which also included spearheading name, image and likeness (NIL) efforts.
Collins joins the state’s only Division III conference through the NCAA Division III Ethnic Minority and Women’s Internship Grant, designed to offer opportunities and give experience in college athletics for women and ethnic minorities. She takes over in the second year of the two-year grant after Emma Nelson, now an assistant volleyball coach at Augustana (S.D.) University, left in May.
In a recent MSR interview, Collins said she wanted to move up North. “Minnesota was definitely going to be further north. I would say that the grant definitely helped facilitate my moves, a really great next step for my professional career.”
Collins also joins the MIAC at a time when the 103-year-old conference, the only Division III league whose entire membership is located within one state, is adding diversity, equity and inclusion to its four existing core values: Quality Athletics, Academics, Student-Athlete Well-Being and Integrity.
“She brings great experience in college athletics, and her talents and perspective will serve our membership well over the next year,” said McKane of Collins in a released statement during the summer.
Collins first got involved in college athletics as a University of Virginia undergrad, where she earned a bachelor’s in sociology. “I worked on the football team as an equipment manager,” she recalled.
After her B.A., Collins contemplated joining the clergy. “I was raised Episcopalian. I went through a discernment process in my undergrad career to see if I wanted to be in the clergy. That wasn’t for me, but studying religion was something that was interesting”.
After Collins pursued and earned her master’s in theological studies, she began working with Vanderbilt Athletics shortly after graduation.
“I’ve always had a calling in my ear,” noted Collins, adding that now, being in athletics, “I could not work in clergy but still do something that was very people-oriented. Over the course of my graduate studies, and then my professional career after that, I really felt like I was in the study of how people orient themselves in the world.”
Despite her Power Five experience in many areas, Collins readily admits she still has much more to learn about the business of college athletics, even at the Division III level. Macalester College Athlete Director Donnie Brooks will serve as a mentor to provide additional guidance and perspective as part of her internship.
“While I’m not a person of color,” said Collins, “I think that it’s important. Talking to my mentor as part of this program, it’s really important that he is my mentor.” Brooks is one of two Black athlete directors in the MIAC and the only Black AD at a Twin Cities school.
To become more inclusive across the board at both the league level and at the 13 MIAC institutions is something Collins hoped to help foster during her one-year stint with the league. “I would love to just put it out there that I love to be a resource.”