A Natural Fit

lisa sweaney standing cross armed in front of a grey Georgia Southern athletics logo

Lisa Sweany, former director of athletics at Armstrong State University, joined the Georgia Southern athletics staff as deputy athletics director in June. Though the consolidation and transition process has been a “whirlwind,” she says she couldn’t pass up the great opportunity.

“When TK [Athletics Director Tom Kleinlein] talked to me about coming over as the deputy athletics director, I told him I’d think about it,” she said. “The more I thought about it, the more I thought, ‘This could be a really good fit for me….’ I really liked his vision and aligned with what he was trying to accomplish here, which were the same things that were important to me throughout my entire career…. So this, to me, was a natural fit.”

In Sweany, Georgia Southern gained an award-winning athletics director with a history of success. Before joining the University, Sweany was named a 2017 Under Armour Athletics Director of the Year for NCAA Division II—one of only four Division II honorees in the nation. During her six years with Armstrong, the Pirates earned five NCAA Division II National Championships, 23 Peach Belt Conference regular-season titles, 15 Peach Belt tournament titles, 43 NCAA Championships appearances, 86 All-American athletes, 12 College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-American athletes and 214 All-Peach Belt Conference honorees.

“We had good coaches that recruited tremendous student-athletes and then coached them up once they got there,” she said, “ so I was fortunate we had a lot of success there due to some great work with coaches and student-athletes that were successful both academically and athletically. Every semester there we had a 3.0 as a department.”

As deputy athletics director, Sweany oversees the day-to-day operations in Eagle athletics, working directly with coaches and the administrative staff. She says her role frees up Kleinlein to focus more attention on external development of donors and fundraising, a crucial part of the athletics program. To be successful in her role, Sweany says she hopes to continue the philosophy that brought her here—coaching the student-athletes in sports, academics and life.

“A lot hinges on the ability of the coaches to recruit quality student-athletes,” she said, “and then once they’re here, it’s our responsibility to coach them up not just to be athletes, but also to help them be successful academically, and then teach them life skills and how to survive once they leave here and be leaders in their field.”

Sweany’s first few months have certainly been eventful. She arrived just as Eagles football was having one of its worst seasons in history. However, she said she was impressed and inspired by the players and their dedication to keep working hard and keep trying to get better despite the adversity.

Even more impressive to Sweany, however, is the dedication of Georgia Southern fans.

“I think the one thing that has impressed me, and I tell recruits this, too—‘If you’re Georgia Southern, you’re Georgia Southern,’” she said. “I mean, people love this institution. They are True Blue. They love everything about it. People who work here, a lot of them have gone to school here. They’ve never left. The community supports it. That’s really special. You don’t always see that in other institutions or in other communities.”

— Doy Cave