Robin Harris became the Ivy League Council of Presidents' second full-time Executive Director on July 1, 2009, replacing Jeffrey H. Orleans, who retired from the position after 25 years.
Entering her eighth year at the helm, Harris has led the Ivy League to new heights in a number of areas. She guided the League in the creation and development of the Ivy League Digital Network (ILDN); implemented a continuing, broad-based concussion research and prevention initiative; expanded and negotiated the Ivy League’s television coverage agreements; fostered a long-term relationship with JMI Sports to introduce new League-wide sponsorship deals; and focused the League’s communication on core messaging points. She has continued to help the League’s member schools achieve the ultimate collegiate sports experience that provides Ivy League student-athletes a foundation for life-long success through a broad-based offering of athletic and academic pursuits.
Since the start of her tenure, Harris has focused on guiding and advancing the League in a manner that remains consistent with the philosophy set by the Ivy League Presidents. The Ivy League continually supports academic and athletic excellence while paving a road to current and future successes for the student-athletes that extends beyond the four years they spend at their respective campuses. Harris continues to strengthen the model the Ivy League has established as a nationally regarded, premiere collegiate athletic conference.
Harris guided the highly successful creation and launch of The Ivy League Digital Network (ILDN), which has broadcast over 1,000 live events in each of its three years as a collaborative platform for all eight member schools to showcase Ivy League athletic events, student-athletes and other content. The League’s digital efforts include the #OneIvy and “Authentic Ivy” video series that highlight the value and balance of the Ivy League athletic and academic experiences and the life-long successes of Ivy League student-athletes.
Harris has enhanced the exposure of the Ivy League through conference-wide television agreements with national networks such as NBC Sports, ESPN, CBS Sports Network, FOX Sports, American Sports Network and One World Sports. These combined efforts have expanded national and global coverage of Ivy League football, men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s and women’s lacrosse, all of which achieve national success and recognition year after year. Along with these television negotiations, a groundbreaking sponsorship rights agreement with JMI Sports has increased exposure of the League’s prestigious brand.
The athletic and academic standing of the Ivy League on a national stage has soared under Harris’ direction with nine national champions in 2015-16 alone and significant National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament successes. Academically, the Ivy League has consistently led the nation in NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) and Academic Progress Rate (APR) rankings.
Garnering national success in a broad array of sports, Ivy League member schools are also typically well-represented in the final standings of the NACDA Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup, finishing in 2015-16 as the highest ranked conference outside of the Power 5 conferences for the second-straight year.
Under Harris’ leadership, the Ivy League has developed and implemented new championship events for women’s rowing, fencing and men’s and women’s lacrosse. Currently, plans for the inaugural men’s and women’s basketball tournaments are in the works for the 2017 season.
Harris has been very active in positioning the Ivy League at the forefront nationally regarding concussion research, education and prevention. Under her leadership, the League has reviewed and implemented a variety of concussion-curbing measures across a number of sports and implemented a comprehensive League-wide data collection and study of concussion in all sports. The League is also partnering with the Big Ten Conference to foster co-sponsored, cross-institutional research collaborations to study the effects of head injuries in sports.
Beginning with football in 2010 and eventually including eight other sports to-date
(men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, wrestling and rugby), Harris led sports-specific studies of concussions and related policy changes. These studies included sport-specific practice recommendations and an enhancement of existing education of student-athletes and coaches regarding the signs and symptoms of concussions, emphasizing the potential long-term risks of repetitive brain trauma and stressing the importance of reporting any symptoms of a concussion.
As additional concussion data was collected and analyzed, Harris and the League implemented two major football-related policies effective with the 2016 season: Elimination of to-the-ground (“live”) tackling during regular season football practices; and an experimental rule to move kickoffs to the 40-yard line and touchbacks to the 20-yard line.
Harris has volunteered on a number of national committees and is currently serving a four-year term on the NCAA Division I Competition Oversight Committee. She is on the Board of Governors of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, serving as one of two NCAA representatives, and is chair of the NCAA’s Women’s Collegiate Basketball Officiating, LLC Board of Directors. Previously, she served a three-year term as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators (NACWAA), including as the organization’s president during the 2012-13 academic year. She also previously served as legal advisor to the NACWAA Board. Under the prior Division I governance structure, she served one term as a member of the NCAA Division I Leadership Council, an advisory body to the Division I Board of Directors.
In 2016, The Sports Business Journal selected Harris as a “Game Changer;” a national recognition of selected female sports executives.
Harris came to the Ivy League office after seven years at Ice Miller, LLP, based in Indianapolis. At Ice Miller, she served as senior counsel and co-chair of the Collegiate Sports Practice and worked with the firm’s college and university clients on a variety of matters related to athletics.
Prior to Ice Miller, Harris worked nine years in increasingly responsible roles in the NCAA, ending her tenure at the NCAA national office in 2002 as associate chief of staff for Division I. In that role, she provided advice and guidance to the NCAA president, Executive Committee, Division I Board of Directors, Division I Management Council and other committees in nearly all athletic governance areas, including academic standards, amateurism, championship policies, diversity, gender equity and Title IX, legislative proposals, membership requirements, strategic planning, student-athlete welfare and studies regarding basketball and football concerns. From 1993 -1998, she was the NCAA’s first director for the Committee on Infractions. Harris is or has been a member of numerous professional associations, including the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), NACWAA, National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA) and National Association of Athletics Compliance (NAAC).
She is the author of several articles on issues related to intercollegiate athletics and has made presentations at numerous NCAA, NACUA, NACWAA and Division I conferences and seminars.
Harris is a graduate of the Duke University School of Law, where she served as an editor of the Duke Law Journal. Her student note, “Does the NCAA Play Fair? A Due Process Analysis of NCAA Enforcement Regulations” was published in the Duke Law Journal. She also received a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, from Duke.
She is married to Max Harris, a native of Washington, Kansas. The couple has two children, twin daughters Alexandra (Alex) and Vanessa.