Shalini Shanker and the restless world of NCAA compliance

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Collegian | Reuel Indurkar

Shalini Shanker, senior associate athletics director for compliance, explains her role in Athletics at Colorado State University Sept. 18. “I love what I do,” Shanker said. “I went to law school; I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, and I quickly realized that was not the path for me and started working in athletics in my second year of law school. I absolutely fell in love with it.”

Braidon Nourse, Sports Editor

It often seems that yet another university’s athletic department is under fire for breaking rules set by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Paying student-athletes under the table, discrimination based on sex or race and faulty recruitment are just some examples of where athletics departments go wrong when operating.

Shalini Shanker is the senior associate athletics director for compliance and the senior woman administrator for Colorado State University Athletics. She oversees the Compliance Office, whose main purpose is to teach coaches and student-athletes about NCAA rules and to make sure rules are being followed by anyone involved in athletics.

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Previously a law student at the University of Kansas, Shanker found that after a year of her studies, they weren’t the path for her. She decided to listen to those around her with the advice of doing something she loved, and sports was the first thing on her mind.

“I realized (law) is not what I was going to do, so it was like, ‘Well, what am I going to do? … What do I really love?’” Shanker said. “I love sports.”

Through a KU law alumni database, Shanker found a woman in the Kansas City, Kansas, area who worked in the realm of sports law. The two met for coffee, and the woman suggested compliance, a crossroads between sports and law that Shanker didn’t know existed at the time.

By September of her second year at KU, Shanker took a volunteer position working for compliance, immediately fell in love with it and never looked back. It was the best of both worlds for her.

Now, Shanker also serves as the deputy Title IX coordinator for Athletics, which means she makes sure male and female student-athletes are being offered equal opportunities at CSU. She is a member of the Mountain West Conference Joint Council, and she is involved in “almost all aspects of student-athlete welfare issues.”

“No one day looks the same as the next,” Shanker said. 

Megan Boone is the assistant athletic director for compliance, and she works with Shanker to uphold the university’s standard of NCAA compliance. In her office lies the NCAA manual, a thick binder full of bylaws that, according to Boone, are “split up by subject area.” Each member of the Compliance Office handles certain subject areas, all of which are overseen by Shanker.

“I think Shalini (Shanker) is a great asset to our university,” Boone said. “She’s incredibly bright and perceptive. …  She does extremely well with the number of responsibilities that she has.”

Another of Shanker’s responsibilities is the role of sport administrator for five Division I sports at CSU. She is the immediate supervisor for issues regarding women’s basketball, volleyball, softball, cross country and track and field. For a number of matters, including scheduling, hiring and budgeting, the head coaches of these programs go to Shanker for guidance.

“She’s just a great representative for our Athletics department and university,” Boone said.

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For most, the seemingly endless responsibilities would cause disorganized chaos in mind and spirit, but it seems quite the opposite for Shanker, whose office sits in perfect order. The only clutter that could be spotted was two neatly stacked piles of paperwork on her desk. Even more tidy than her office, however, is her email inbox.

“There are going to be massive changes, and I just want us to keep up and be proactive as much as we can and help our coaches,” -Shalini Shanker, senior associate athletics director for compliance

“I don’t like a full email, so I’m horrible, in a good way, about answering emails immediately,” Shanker said. “I know how to prioritize. … I have a lot of to-do lists; I have like three different types of to-do lists. I have calendars: a monthly calendar for compliance and a monthly calendar for all of my other duties so I stay on track.”

One of Shanker’s biggest inspirations is the growth she’s able to facilitate in student-athletes at CSU. Her biggest accomplishment, she said, was not when she witnessed the University of Florida win national championships in basketball and football when she worked there years ago. Instead, it was right here at CSU.

“I tell people the single greatest moment of my career is when I got to hand our softball team the championship trophy in 2019 when they won the conference championship,” Shanker said. “I supervised that program longer than any other. … To see their growth and to finally have that and reach that mountaintop — that’s the highlight.”

With the ever-changing landscape of college athletics — including the shifts of schools between conferences and athletes using the transfer portal seemingly more than ever before — Shanker’s only goal moving forward is to continue to support student-athletes and coaches.

“There are going to be massive changes, and I just want us to keep up and be proactive as much as we can and help our coaches,” Shanker said.

Reach Braidon Nourse at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @BraidonNourse.