In doing so, he became the first athletic director from a Group of 5 school to win the award, which was announced Wednesday at the 16th annual Sports Business Awards in New York City.
Wicker is coming off a year that included the opening of the new 35,000-seat Snapdragon Stadium, the men’s basketball team reaching the national championship game at the NCAA Tournament, six Mountain West team championships and the May 18 announcement that the a Major League Soccer expansion team will make Snapdragon its home.
In describing Wicker, the SPJ wrote, that “it’s not often that an athletic director has an opportunity to build a football stadium from the ground up, but that’s exactly what J.D. Wicker has been doing at San Diego State.
“Wicker led a potentially thorny process to get Snapdragon Stadium to the finish line last season, bringing together the city of San Diego, the university and the athletics department in a way that kept the $310 million project on budget and on time for a 2022 opening,” the publication said.
Wicker, in accepting the award, noted the Group of 5 disparity. “It feels like we get nominated a lot, but if you’re not in the Power 5, you’re not at that level.”
Power 5 conferences include the SEC and Pac-12 – an-oft rumored destination for SDSU after UCLA and USC’s impending departure for the Big Ten – and are better funded and regarded as more competitive than Group of 5 conferences.
The latter includes the Mountain West, the Aztecs’ longtime home, and Conference USA.
He went on to say that academic success and contributions to the community matter as well as athletics.
“Two weeks ago, we graduated a bunch of student athletes, and that’s how I know we’re succeeding. The softball team is in their first-ever Super Regional this weekend. That’s succeeding. We just announced MLS [expansion] in San Diego in the stadium San Diego State built for the community. That’s succeeding,” Wicker said. “There’s always something around the corner; you can get lost in all the things at times. But we’re doing a lot to make San Diego successful.”
Wicker has been SDSU’s athletic director since 2016. He served as deputy athletic director from 2011 to 2015, when he departed for a short stint at Georgia Tech. He also has held the post of associate athletic director at Washington State and spent two years as director of event and facility operations at Southern Miss.
Wicker graduated from Mississippi State in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in professional accountancy. He received his master’s degree in education with an emphasis in sports management from Georgia in 1997.