Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Athletics welcomes ‘champion’ for diversity

DU may not have a football team, but it has already scored its first T.D. He’s Tony Daniels, the recently hired associate athletics director for diversity and community relations, and one of few people with those duties in Division 1 athletics.

His mission is to champion diversity in Pioneers athletics and recreation.

“Just call me T.D.,” he jokes with a group of new students exploring the third-floor catacombs of the Ritchie Center. “You know, touchdown!”

He raises his arms in the classic football signal and all five smile. Within minutes they’re laughing out loud and T.D. is sporting an infectious, enveloping smile he can illuminate in a flash.

T.D. leaves the students and walks down the hallway to the administration area. Before he can even reach the photocopy machine he has already engaged a coach, a secretary and an athletics department volunteer in enthusiastic banter that leaves all three grinning broadly. Three other people smile and wave from inside glass offices.

Call it charisma. Personal magnetism. Individual dynamics. By any name it’s what Athletics and Recreation Director Peg Bradley-Doppes hopes will bring powerful advocacy for student-athletes campuswide and for athletics as a whole in the Denver area.

“[Tony Daniels] is here as a resource, a facilitator and a networker for our student- athletes,” Bradley-Doppes says. “He has a great global perspective.”

He’ll need that, she points out, to connect with the variety of multicultural initiatives already under way at DU.

“The primary (mission) is to develop interpersonal relationships across campus,” Daniels says. “That’s paramount. Then I can articulate some of the needs and some of the contributions that student-athletes can have at the University of Denver.”

Daniels, 40, a former track star at Texas State, knows the pressures of being a student- athlete. He also knows the challenges of recreation from his days as assistant athletic director and diversity training manager at the University of Kansas.

Now that he’s at DU, he sees his job as “connecting the dots,” collaborating, he says, with admission diversity efforts, advising and the Center for Multicultural Excellence, among others. He’ll make his presence known to off-campus community groups as well.

“We’ve got to do a better job of talking about diversity and putting our resources behind it,” he says.

The payoff, he promises, will touch everyone at DU.

“Everything that we do in this society is based on interpersonal relations,” he says. “Having someone to be keen and current on those issues could be a real benefit.”

That’s true for those outside DU as well.

“We’re a private institution for the public good, “Bradley- Doppes says. “How do we engage the community more?”

The answer, both point out, is to promote initiatives that dispel those myths about DU that may thrive outside the institution and to establish partner- ships with influential groups.

On campus, it is to assure recruits that the campus climate at DU is the “positive, welcoming and empowering” place they want it to be. But it’s also to develop programs for students, coaches, staff members and administrators that support a positive atmosphere.

Will it work?

“We’re pushing,” he says. “A lot of great things are happening.”

Bradley-Doppes is hopeful as well. “Tony has jumped in with both feet,” she says. “His ability to connect with our student population is critically important, and he does it very well. He gets it.”

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