Christian Spears has more than 25 years of experience at all levels of intercollegiate athletics administration. He comes to Marshall most recently from the University of Pittsburgh, where as deputy athletic director and chief operating officer he managed all revenue generation and external operations, primarily focused on strategic partnerships to help reduce expenses and supplement revenue streams. His areas of responsibility at Pitt included marketing and branding, media relations, fundraising, ticket operations, licensing, merchandising, game presentation, broadcast services and multimedia rights.
He is an accomplished leader with a proven track record of raising funds, forming corporate partnerships, and developing and executing strategic plans. In his five years at Pitt, he was instrumental in a capital campaign to support Pitt’s $250 million “Victory Heights” initiative to build and upgrade athletic facilities, helping to raise nearly $15 million of the $25 million goal to-date, as well as assisting with the development of the champions advisory board that has engaged 24 new alumni/donors with the goal of completing the campaign by 2024.
He also worked with the department’s fundraising arm to raise more than $100 million since 2017, including the largest gift in Pitt Athletics history ($20 million) and played an influential role in the development of an Athletics strategic plan, core values and set of strategic initiatives.
He negotiated a 16-year multimedia rights agreement worth more than $106 million with JMI Sports, developed and led Pitt Athletics’ partnership with media production giant NEP, resulting in a $12 million project that created Pitt Studios and five dedicated broadcast control rooms, and formed a partnership with Ideal Integrations and Extreme Networks for a $2 million capital project to bring wi-fi to the Petersen Events Center.
In addition, Spears led negotiations for a new arena management company (ASM Global), resulting in $3 million in new capital projects at the Petersen Events Center. As part of a six-year, $12 million agreement with Nike’s Global Identity Group (GIG), he worked on a series of new marks and logos that led to the successful rebranding of the University of Pittsburgh and Pitt Athletics.
Prior to joining Pitt in 2017, Spears had stints as deputy athletics director at both Eastern Michigan University and Northern Illinois University. He was an assistant athletic director at Southern Illinois University, where he had administrative oversight of compliance as well as student-athlete financial aid and eligibility. He was an assistant director of athletics for compliance at Harvard University from 2002-03.
Spears has been a member of the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association since 2003 and currently serves college football on the national level as a member of the College Football Playoff Advisory Committee. He formerly served as president of the National Association for Athletics Compliance and is an alumnus of the NCAA Pathway Program, which is intended to prepare participants to become directors of athletics or conference commissioners.
Spears graduated from the University of Washington in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He earned a master’s degree in public administration from California State University Long Beach in 1998 and his juris doctor from Ohio State in 2002.