Director of athletics Lee de León resigned Thursday to accept the position of executive senior associate athletics director and assistant vice president for development, at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.
De León said he is excited to transition to a community that prides itself on its teams, and has a focus on athletics, whereas ACU is primarily academic-centered.
“As much as I love Abilene Christian, as much as I love our student athletes, coaches and staff, we really felt like this is where God was calling us to be and this was a great step for my career,” De Leon said. “I’m excited to go back to a place where people really love their teams.”
He also said his most proud accomplishment at ACU was changing the nature and weight of athletics at ACU.
“I think what I’m most proud of is changing the culture, and trying to raise the standards of excellence and getting people to understand that we can do things at a higher level. I feel like we’ve shown people that we belong in the Div. 1 race.”
De León began as director of athletics in 2014 and oversaw the complete transition into Div. 1 as well as the construction and completion of Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium, the university’s first on-campus football stadium in over 50 years.
Over three years, De León spent $57 million on athletics facilities, including Elmer Gray Stadium, artificial turf at both Wells Field and Crutcher Scott Field, the current construction of a new tennis facility, the addition of two video boards in Moody Coliseum and the renovation of the Teague Center. He also led the increase in annual revenue to more than $3.8 million in 2017-18 from $2.1 million in 2014-15, according to a press release sent out by associate director of athletics for media relations, Lance Fleming.
During his time, Adam Dorrel replaced Ken Collums as head coach of the football team, track and field head coach Keith Barnier was relieved of his duties, and 22-year-long baseball head coach Britt Bonneau resigned after the 2018 season.
Off the field, De León oversaw an increase of the average student-athlete GPA, reaching 3.17, the highest recorded in ACU Sports history, as well as a new academic facility solely for student-athletes.
De León said he is excited to learn from the director of athletics at Purdue, Mike Bobinski, who has been in his position for 20 years.
“I think I can really learn a lot from him and grow under his mentorship, that was a big appeal to me,” De León said. “The beauty of this being my first athletic director job was that I could fail and it wasn’t going to be national news. It’s been such a great training ground for me to learn how to be an athletic director.
“I feel like I’m leaving behind a lot of friends and a lot of great people,” De Leon said. “That’s definitely the drawback of leaving. We’ve got a great home here, so thats going to be hard.”
De León will begin at Purdue on June 25, and Drew Long, associate director of athletics for internal operations, will serve as interim director of athletics while the university looks to fill the position.