Ragin' Cajuns introduce Lee De León as RCAF Executive Director

Eric Narcisse
The Daily Advertiser
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns introduced Lee De León as the new Executive Director of Ragin' Cajuns Athletic Foundation, Deputy Director of Athletics during a press conference  Wednesday at the Mosing Student-Athlete Performance Center Auditorium Wednesday.

As he stood behind a podium in the Mosing Student-Athlete Performance Center Auditorium Wednesday, new Executive Director of the Ragin' Cajuns Athletic Foundation, Deputy Director of Athletics Lee De León spoke confidently and enthusiastically about how bright the future is for the Cajuns.

During his introductory press conference, De León talked about his desire to build upon the foundation established by his predecessors, to develop "genuine relationships" and "embrace the culture."

However, make no mistake about it, De León is here to raise money.

"The job of the athletic administration is to provide the resources that match the expectations," De León. "The expectations here are high and I have to help provide the resources to match those expectations. So, (athletic director) Dr. (Bryan) Maggard and our staff and I, we are going to really get out there and ask people for money. As a development officer, you have to make the ask. There's a lot of 'friendraisers' out there, not a lot of great fundraisers. I'm going to try to be a great fundraiser, and part of that is asking for money."

De León, who replaces Jim Harris, comes to the Cajuns from Purdue where he served as the executive senior associate athletics director/assistant vice president for development and managed day-to-day operations of the university’s athletics fundraising club.

De León began his college athletics career as a marketing assistant in 2005 at LSU. From 2005 to 2008, De León was assistant director of marketing and later director of marketing at Houston before working as director of annual giving and then assistant athletics director for major gifts and annual giving at Arizona from 2008 to 2011. He then served as associate director of athletics for development at New Mexico and executive director of the Lobo Club from 2011 to 2014.

Under De León, Abilene Christian's annual revenue grew by 81% and the Wildcat Club raised more than $6.25 million in its first year through annual fund, capital gifts, endowments and sport-specific donations.

"He is a proven fundraiser within our industry," Maggard said. "I was aware of the accomplishments that he's had and vast amount of experience. Certainly sitting in the A.D. chair was attractive to me, somebody who understands the industry from a global standpoint. He knows how to run a department. His background is all fundraising, and that in of itself was extremely attractive to me. The more we researched him, the person he was and is certainly just complimented all of that."

In his new role, De León will work with University Advancement, the RCAF Board of Directors and the Department of Athletics in providing leadership and guidance to the RCAF's investment cultivation, major gift planning, premium seating and capital campaign coordination.

"We have a huge undertaking as we go forward in raising money," RCAF Executive Committee Chairman Bryan Hanks said. "It is going to be the crux of where we go as a university and where we go as an athletic department. We were very diligent in finding someone who had a proven track record ,who has raised money and who has raised money in different parts of the country."

Maggard called the search "a thorough process" that resulted in candidates "upwards of 15 to begin with" being interviewed.

"This is a position that really works very closely with three different areas — the board, office of advancement and athletics," Maggard said. "We felt it was very important each of those areas had representation in this process. We all work very well together. I couldn't have asked for a more thorough process. Probably the most thorough process I've ever been apart of.

"Often in my industry, my job, you go out and you find somebody on your own and talk to the president and things like that. But this one was much more deliberate in terms of screening people, identifying candidates. We had a long list of candidates that we narrowed down, brought people in for interviews. Without question, Lee rose to the top throughout that whole process."

With their person of choice in hand, the Cajuns are ready to see De León, a Houston native, hit the ground running.

"At the end on the day, Lee's No. 1 task is to go out and raise money," Maggard said. "If I see him in the office too much, that's too much. We need him on the road. He knows that, and again he's a proven fundraiser. He knows how to get it done, and I'm very very excited for our future."

Eric Narcisse covers high school sports for The Daily Advertiser. Email him at enarcisse@theadvertiser.com and follow him on Twitter @eric_narcisse.