Nico Yantko named Murray State University Director of Athletics
By Dave Winder | Aug 15, 2022
The former Racer student-athlete becomes the 10th director of athletics in Murray State history
MURRAY, Ky. — Nico Yantko (Nick-o Yank-o) is coming home to Murray State University after being named the 10th athletics director in school history.
A two-degree Murray State alumnus, Yantko will be introduced in a public event in the Murray Room of the CFSB Center, Tuesday (Aug. 16) at noon. The event will be streamed on YouTube at https://youtu.be/AAHBChyIwwQ.
Yantko returns to Murray State University as the Racers begin their first year in the Missouri Valley Conference and join the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2023. A Murray State graduate and former Racer quarterback from 2007-09, his career in collegiate athletics began as a graduate assistant in the MSU athletics department and later at North Carolina State, the University of Missouri and the University of Louisiana.
“We are extremely excited to have Nico back home,” said Murray State University President Dr. Bob Jackson. “He has a wealth of experience at the highest level and will provide the leadership to move us forward in every respect as we transition to the Missouri Valley Conference and Missouri Valley Football Conference. Academically, athletically and otherwise, and as I state often, our best days are in front of us as we continue expanding on our 100-year legacy of excellence. Most importantly, Nico fully understands the priority of meeting the needs of our student-athletes and will work to raise the profile and success of all of our athletic programs.”
“To be named the next Athletics Director at Murray State is a dream come true,” said Yantko. “This opportunity is unbelievably humbling, considering how much this institution and what it stands for means to me and so many others. I cannot thank Dr. Jackson and the rest of our university leadership enough for the chance to return home. Murray State has been built on relationships, and with every special moment we share together, we will continue to build and advance the Racers' tradition of excellence. There is no higher honor than to serve my alma mater in this role, and Marnie and I cannot think of a better place to raise our family.”
Yantko’s career trajectory pointed to this moment sooner than later of becoming an athletics director for the first time.
His most recent success was built at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette where Yantko served for six years as the Deputy Director of Athletics. He led the Ragin’ Cajuns external departments and operations and managed a $35M budget that impacted 450 student-athletes, 16 sport programs, 205 department employees and eight athletics venues. Yantko’s consistent delivery of increased resource development, brand popularity and competitive success was a major reason for Louisiana’s 2021-22 run of Sun Belt Conference championships in football, baseball and softball and the department’s top fundraising year of more than $30M.
Nico Yantko at University of Louisiana (2017-22)
o Worked under AD Dr. Bryan Maggard.
o Had oversight of men’s and women’s basketball and football as these teams won four Sun Belt Conference Championships.
o Led historic fundraising in 2021 that saw athletics department giving increase 360 percent to $30M, highest total in school history.
o In 2019, increased donor club giving by 52 percent and membership by 47 percent, both highest totals in school history.
o Secured the largest gift in university history - $15M.
o Built relationship with Learfield/IMG for first multimedia rights agreement that produced $14M annual revenue.
o Led design and funding for $89M in capital projects and facility enhancements for baseball, football and softball, plus student-athlete dining center and broadcast studio.
o Negotiated a 4-year linear TV agreement with Cox Sports.
o Developed premium seating plan for new baseball facility that generated $1.3M annually.
o Increased football season ticket sales 103 percent from 2018 to 2020, tops in school history.
o Helped create the Geaux Lead Academy, a total student-athlete program focusing on life skills and career planning.
o Managed relationship with concessions partner Sodexo (MSU’s dining/concessions partner)
o Oversaw Campus NIL Working Committee – responsible for establishing policies, best practices, and strategic partnerships
o External Team recognized as NACMA Marketing Team of the Year finalist (2020)
o Oversight of relationship with Learfield/IMG - team recognized as Learfield/IMG Property of the Year (2021)
Prior to his time at Louisiana, Yantko spent nearly seven years at the University of Missouri in the areas of development, capital campaigns & major gifts.
Nico Yantko at University of Missouri (2011-17)
o Reported directly to AD Mike Alden on coordination of external engagement and statewide outreach.
o Served as committee member to lead Mizzou transition from Big-12 Conference to Southeastern Conference.
o Helped guide initiatives to directly impact Mizzou basketball student-athletes through facility enhancements for Missouri's basketball arena, including student-athlete locker room, lounge and athletic performance and player development space.
o Led all athletic fundraising and major gifts for Tiger Scholarship Fund.
o Oversaw fundraising team that had the two largest years of productivity of $45.7M in 2013 and $50.4M in 2017.
o Set Missouri Athletics records of 11 seven-figure gifts in 2017.
o Implemented strategies that led to the two highest football season ticket sales years in 2014 and 2015.
o He also served as the liaison to the Kansas City Sports Foundation and St. Louis Sports Foundation (key MVC partner).
After earning his undergrad degree at Murray State in integrated studies, business and communications in 2009 and playing football for the Racers from 2007-09 as a quarterback, Yantko started his career with Racer Football as graduate assistant in 2010. Later that year, he moved into athletics external operations. Yantko worked at North Carolina State with the Wolfpack Club and as a marketing and sales assistant in 2011. He earned a Master’s in human development and leadership, public administration from Murray State in 2020.
Racer Nation welcomes Nico Yantko and his wife, Marnie, daughter, Chaney, to the Murray State Family.
What others are saying about Nico Yantko
Mike Alden – Former University of Missouri Director of Athletics
“Nico Yantko embodies the core values, work ethic and leadership so important as the Director of Athletics. He is a rising star in college athletics. Congratulations to President Jackson and Murray State on a great hire.”
Dr. Joan Gabel – University of Minnesota President
“Nico is the perfect choice to lead Murray State Athletics to even greater success. He has character, vision, experience, and is a proud Racer. This is an ideal homecoming.”
Dr. Bryan Maggard – University of Louisiana Director of Athletics
“Nico is both an exceptional person and professional. He has played a major role in our establishment of national relevance at the University of Louisiana the past five years. I am excited to watch Nico lead Murray State Athletics for years to come and wish him, Marnie and their family great success.”
Coach Billy Napier – University of Florida Head Coach
“Congratulations to Nico Yantko for the leadership opportunity at Murray State. It’s no surprise that he continues to advance in college athletics. He was a pivotal piece to our success in our four years at Louisiana. We will always be thankful for all that he did to help our team and staff. He and Marnie will represent his Alma Mater with class and integrity. The best is yet to come for the Racers!”
Keith Gill – Sun Belt Conference Commissioner
“Murray State could not have made a better choice than Nico Yantko for their next director of athletics. Nico has been an instrumental part of the success of Louisiana Athletics and the Sun Belt Conference. As an alum and former football student-athlete, nobody loves Murray State more than Nico. He is a bright, engaging and innovative athletics administrator and the perfect person to lead Murray State to new heights.”
Austen Lane – Murray State Football (2006-09)- Murray State Hall of Famer & Teammate
“I was honored to have shared the field with Nico for three years at Murray State. In that time, he was the definition of a leader whose work ethic and passion embodied what it meant to be a Racer. He was a heck of a player on the field but more importantly an even better person off it and I'm proud to call him a friend. There's not a doubt in my mind he's going to shine in his new role at Murray State and I can't wait to watch him take Racer Athletics to new heights.”
Bobby Purcell – North Carolina State Athletics Special Assistant to the AD
“Nico Yantko is one of the brightest young administrators in college athletics today. He is smart and personable. He is a wonderful father, husband, and person. He will be a tremendous leader for Murray State and everyone will love him. Congrats on a great hire.”