Associate athletic director continues push for diversity, leadership for student-athletes


Photo provided by Breanna Robinson

Breanna Robinson says she wants to have an impact on every person she meets as Miami’s associate athletic director for diversity, advocacy & student-athlete success.

By Nia Hinson

Breanna Robinson has been knocking the ball out of the park by setting an example for young women in sports, and she’s just getting started. In her case, this is no metaphor. 

Robinson spends much of her time as a sport administrator with the women’s basketball and softball teams at Miami University. The young, dark curly haired woman with high cheekbones, a taut face and an overwhelming love to win and compete speaks to athletes with a stern, but caring demeanor, as Robinson puts it. 

These are not just sports to her. They are symbols of rightfully earned positions and a glimpse of a better future. No two days are the same, but if there is one thing that never changes, it’s her ability to impact the players and other coaches in a positive manner. 

“I’ve always desired to be a person to walk with students on their journey and kind of meet them where they are and take them to where they want to go,” Robinson said. 

At the age of 31, she is the university’s associate athletic director for diversity, advocacy & student-athlete success. 

The small town vibes of Oxford are no match for her booming personality, with Robinson attributing her success to her persistent and competitive edge. She serves as a liaison between campus and athletics for diversity and inclusion, as well as overseeing the leadership academy within Miami’s athletic department. 

Robinson works to ensure the staff and coaches are casting jobs to people of all races, genders and identities, and that all policies within the athletic department are non-discriminatory. Being a woman of color has driven her hard work ethic, and her sense of obligation to succeed in this field.

“I feel like I have a sense of responsibility to other professionals who are coming up in the field,” Robinson said. “Whether it be women or people of color, to be able to show them that it’s possible to be successful and be in the place they deserve to be.”

Before she was known as an athletic director to sports-loving enthusiasts and championship-seeking athletes at Miami, Robinson lived in Toledo, Ohio.

Being the only sister to two brothers, there was not much room for Robinson to be anything other than an athlete. Her older brother who played football, as well as her father who coached youth football influenced her love for sports from a young age.

She recalled playing baseball, volleyball and soccer, beginning in the third grade. This want to play came from what Robinson said was a desire to be a part of the camaraderie she saw between her brother and his teammates and the forms of encouragement she saw her dad give to the young boys he coached.

Robinson had a unique experience in playing sports as a child. She went against what most people would consider the “norm,” and played on all-boys teams. After not being offered the opportunity to play baseball in high school, she was forced to switch over to softball.

Her involvement in male sports is what Robinson believes has made her so competitive. She never feared going up against others in sports, and she carries this mentality with her into her career as an assistant athletic director.

“I think having that training when I was young was really cool because I was able to really be conditioned in a space where it’s like, ‘why would you be afraid of boys?’ Like you’re competing with boys every day, so it was practice for real life,” Robinson said. 

In 2004, she packed up her talents to Miami University, where she played softball as a walk-on student athlete, until eventually earning a scholarship. 

She said the athletic administrators, as well as her teammates at the time empowered and accepted her as a part of the community, as if she was their scholarship student-athlete from the beginning. 

Her love for Miami grew over her four years as an athlete, and is what inspired her future job at a place she could truly call home. “I think that that really was the onset for me going on this journey of just really loving Miami and Miami athletics,” Robinson said. 

After graduating, she began a career at Miami University working as an academic coordinator for intercollegiate athletics. A few years later, she worked as an academic coordinator for men’s and women’s volleyball at Georgia Tech and the assistant athletic director for Central Catholic High School in Toledo, according to her Linkedin. 

In 2017, her love for Miami pulled her back to Oxford. In coming back, she aspired to be a director of an academic center, but ended up working as an assistant director for student athlete academic support and eligibility services.

It was not until her supervisors and the Athletic Director, David Sayler, saw qualities in her that they deemed fit what their program needed, that Robinson was promoted to the assistant athletic director for leadership & diversity. 

“I think that’s pretty significant,” Robinson said.  “It says to me that no, we don’t need you to come tell us that you’re valuable, we identify that you’re valuable.” 

The realization from others of her strong leadership qualities and talents quickly humbled Robinson. The experience helped her become aware of what she had to do to gain access to new opportunities, Robinson said. 

Deputy Director of Athletics and Chief of Staff, Jude Killy, said he’s known Robinson since 2008, and has always been aware of how great she is.

“She’s very objective in her ability to listen to people and hear them out,” Killy said. “She can diagnose the problem and dissect it and share feedback.” 

With these notions, came Robinson’s persistence and strong urge to encourage others to be successful. She said she believes this is important especially for women of color, and has worked throughout her position now to put an end to the thought that black women are hesitant to become administrators. 

“When I think about my position, working in a primarily white institution, and working in the field of sport, I think it’s a great opportunity to be able to allow people the opportunity to engage in ways that they may not ordinarily engage,” Robinson said. 

Her wish to have an impact on others is not something only she sees. Jennie Gilbert, associate athletic director at Miami, who considers Robinson to be a “very good friend” is amazed with the work she has done, considering Robinson’s busy schedule. 

“I am amazed at everything that woman has done,” Gilbert said. “The impact she’s having on her student athletes is probably her biggest accomplishment. Not only is she impacting her softball team that she directly oversees, but she’s impacting 30 others in their development as leaders on their own teams.” 

As if being the assistant athletic director was not taking up enough of her time, Robinson also teaches a course through the Sports Leadership and Management (SLAM) department at Miami. The busy schedule that can change within a minute’s notice is something that fuels her competitive edge even more. Trying to get everything done is more like a game to her than work at all, she said.

The desire to teach comes from her days as a student athlete, and the remembrance that she struggled with academics, and her superiors were the ones who helped her get through it. 

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 10:05 am, Robinson begins her dedication to teaching through her KNH 212: Introduction to Sport Management class. She teaches with an open style intended for good communication behind a computer screen, and teaches for more than just the money.

“I’ve always had a passion for teaching and learning and I think that passion stemmed from me not being the greatest student,” Robinson said. 

The hard work of Robinson continues. She is currently on track to receive her doctorate degree in May from Bowling Green State University. She said she looks forward to continuing her career in athletic administration, and staying connected in the Oxford community, and is doing so all while raising her 5-year-old daughter, Harper, as a single parent.

Receiving this degree will allow for Robinson to become even more engrossed in the complexities of athletics, as well as continue her desire to impact the lives of those around her. 

“I just really love helping people,” Robinson said. “I also am really infatuated with process improvement and growth development, so my job is really cool because I get to focus on both of those things.”