St. Louis Character: Jeff Jackson ushers in a new era at the Missouri Valley Conference – St. Louis Business Journal – St. Louis Business Journal

Jeff Jackson has spent his career with a “nomadic existence.”
That’s just part of being a college basketball coach and college athletics administrator, he says. Jackson’s career has brought him to places like New York, Colorado, California, New Hampshire, Tennessee and South Carolina,
Today, he calls St. Louis home, thanks to his new role as commissioner of the Missouri Valley Athletic Conference. Jackson on July 1 began his tenure at the MVC, replacing Doug Elgin, who had led the St. Louis-based NCAA Division I conference since 1988.
Jackson, a New York City native and graduate of Cornell University, joined the MVC after having most recently served as executive associate commissioner of the Big 12 Conference. Prior to his current role with the Big 12, Jackson was deputy commissioner of the Big South Conference.
How did you get into coaching? One of the unique things about several of the Ivy League programs is they have junior varsity basketball. I was recruited to Cornell to play football and play a little bit of basketball there, but I kept getting hurt. I made a decision to go into coaching. In my junior year in college, I was the assistant JV coach for basketball and I was a graduate assistant for football. In my senior year of college, I was actually the head junior varsity coach at Cornell.
How did you end up switching from coaching to administration? After my tenure at Furman as the head coach, I thought about getting back into coaching. But I thought, at this time the way my mind was working, that maybe I can have an impact in a different way in regards to collegiate athletics. I started having conversations about whether that meant working in a conference office or whether working on a campus and getting an administrative role. I ended up having an opportunity to be a deputy commissioner in the Big South Conference. It kind of took off from there. I enjoyed it. I liked the impact that I was able to have. Even though it’s not nearly as intimate with the student-athlete in regards to being on campus, the legislative part, the policy part, the impact part and the opportunity in some ways to be a fair and neutral arbiter, I think all those things I found appealing.
What attracted you to take the commissioner job with the MVC? It was a unique opportunity. Being a basketball guy, the Missouri Valley to me is one of the premier basketball conferences in the country. To have an opportunity to get involved with a conference that from my perspective has a philosophy that I agree with, has an approach that I agree with and an institution stack I feel proud to represent, it was a rather easy decision.
What have been key priorities in your first months on the job? It’s getting a staff in place. We had two people depart. We’ve got people who stayed and I needed to spend time getting to know them. We brought in four or five new people. We’ve spent a lot of time with the topics of the day, whether it’s name, image, and likeness (policies); whether it’s scheduling; whether it’s Covid and just doing all the things that you need to do to make sure you’re in a position to give your student athletes the best experience that they can have.
What’s it like taking over from someone like Doug Elgin, who was a mainstay so long at the MVC? It’s been great for me. It’s like buying a house. You can buy a house that you’ve got to come in, you’ve got to redo everything from scratch and basically rebuild it, or it’s easy to have a house where everything’s been laid out and things have been done in the right fashion and you’ve got quality pieces. For me, it’s been the latter. In fact, I had lunch recently with Doug. He’d been fantastic about shepherding me through this process and things that I need to know being that this is my first opportunity to be a commissioner. He’s a wealth of experience and knowledge, and it’s something that I’m going to continue to draw from.
What are your initial thoughts on St. Louis? I’ve been to five or six Cardinals games. I really enjoyed that. Me and my wife are a little bit of foodies, so we’ve been to a lot of different restaurants. We’ve taken advantage of that. As far as we can tell, it’s off to a great start.
What do you like to do in your free time? I’m probably reading or watching a movie. I’m a huge movie buff. Like I said, now and then me and my wife will go out to the restaurants. We’ve been to the Botanical Garden. We’ll probably take advantage of some of the theater opportunities here.
More about Jeff Jackson
Title: Commissioner, Missouri Valley Conference
Age: 60
Hometown: New York
Education: Jackson has a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University
Family: Jackson and his wife, Carolyn, have three children
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