Calling the plays

Mark Lewis’ moot court and athletic skills help him oversee NCAA championships

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Mark Lewis was only a year into his job at the NCAA when he had to tackle two unpopular decisions: To stop selling team jerseys through the NCAA website and to stop licensing a popular football video game.

Fortunately, he had the skills needed to avoid a potential firestorm.

“I didn’t take a class on whether to sell jerseys on a website or not, but what I felt like I learned at Georgia was a skill set of problem solving and orienting myself to processing information and making a decision. That’s not something you learn in a classroom, but part of the whole experience,” says Lewis (BBA ’88, JD ’92), who became executive vice president for championships and alliances at the NCAA in April 2012.

Just 20 years earlier Lewis was a standout at UGA, a polished debater who led UGA’s moot court team to a national championship in 1992.

President Jere W. Morehead, who oversaw the UGA School of Law’s moot court program when Lewis was on the team, recognized his potential.

“Mark was the best advocate in the National Moot Court Competition,” Morehead says. “Believe me, at that point, I knew there was nothing that Mark wasn’t capable of accomplishing.”

Before working at the NCAA, Lewis held positions with various Olympic organizations, where he handled a network of international committees and amateur federations. Overseeing the NCAA’s 89 championships, in addition to corporate and media partner programs, isn’t much different from his Olympic work, he says, “except all the meetings are in English and I don’t have to leave the country.”

His connections with athletics, both at Georgia and in his personal life, have helped as well.

As an undergraduate he was a long snapper on Vince Dooley’s final football team in 1988 and roomed with kicker John Kasay, who retired from the NFL earlier this year.

Lewis’ father, Bill, was a defensive assistant coach at UGA in the 1980s. The two recently met to watch Georgia play Clemson in the 2013 season opener.

His “Bulldog allegiance isn’t hidden” at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, he says. He has a framed drawing of Dooley, signed by members of the 1988 team, to commemorate Dooley’s 25 years of coaching.

“I’ve been working around sports … but to be back and be around student-athletes and the college aspect of things and the passion that people have for their alma mater and their university, it’s just really something special,” Lewis says. “And to be a small part of that, it’s a great thing. I like to tell people that I’m glad that I don’t have to work for a living.” — Andy Johnston is a freelancer living in Watkinsville.