DHR Places First General Counsel for Atlantic Coast Conference

April 3, 2023 – Talent advisory firm DHR Global has helped to place Pearlynn Houck as the inaugural general counsel for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in Greensboro, NC. Ms. Houck, who will begin her tenure on April 17, joins the ACC from the North Carolina-based law firm Robinson Bradshaw, where she was most recently a litigation shareholder. During her 17-year career at the firm, she has practiced in the areas of litigation, government and internal investigations, education, and sports law. DHR’s managing partner and global sports practice leader Glenn Sugiyama headed the assignment with significant work from the conference’s advisory committee. The committee was comprised of Pam Bernard, vice president and general counsel at Duke University, and Jack Swarbrick, vice president and director of athletics at Notre Dame University, with input from University of Syracuse chancellor Kent Syverud.

“Pearlynn brings a wealth of experience to this critical position, and we look forward to her leadership and legal expertise,” said ACC commissioner Jim Phillips. “As we continue to navigate the future of college athletics and the many opportunities and challenges ahead, this is the right time to hire a full-time executive staff member to provide comprehensive oversight of legal affairs and risk management for the conference.”

“DHR Global was terrific in its work to help us secure the ACC’s first-ever in house general counsel,” Mr. Phillips said. “Glenn, and his team, brought tremendous expertise and seamlessly managed all logistics surrounding this critically important hire.”

Ms. Houck will report directly to the commissioner and serve as a member of the ACC’s executive staff, playing a leadership role in setting the strategic vision of the conference. She will be responsible for all legal matters and risk management, while managing all litigation and other claims, internally and with the assistance of outside counsel. She will provide legal consultation to the ACC board of directors, executive committee, advisory committees, conference committees, and service groups and will be the primary point of contact for the conference’s institutional general counsels.

Strong Experience

“I am honored and excited to join commissioner Phillips and his team as the ACC’s general counsel,” said Ms. Houck. “The legal landscape of college athletics is evolving rapidly. I look forward to working with the conference and its member schools to ensure the ACC is not only ready for, but a leader in, the future of college athletics.”

In recent years, Ms. Houck served as outside counsel to the Southeastern Conference. This included representation in pending litigation, including antitrust lawsuits and concussion litigation. In addition to litigation, Ms. Houck provided counsel on a number of issues, including NIL laws and compliance conference governance, and conference specific disputes. Her experience also included other sports and higher education clients.

Ms. Houck received her undergraduate degree from the University of Montana and her law degree from Harvard Law School.

Related: DHR Global Recruits Men’s Basketball Coach for the University of Louisville

The Atlantic Coast Conference, now in its 70th year of competition, has 15 members. The ACC has long had a reputation as one of the strongest and most competitive intercollegiate conferences in the nation. Its members include Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, Notre Dame, Pitt, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest. The ACC sponsors 27 NCAA sports – 14 for women and 13 for men – with member institutions located in 10 states. Women’s gymnastics will become the league’s 28th sponsored sport in the 2023-24 academic year. In 2019, ESPN and the ACC partnered to launch ACC Network (ACCN), a 24/7 national network dedicated to ACC sports and league-wide original programming.

A Leader in Sports Recruitment

Since 1989, DHR Global has been a leading, privately held provider of executive search solutions with more than 50 wholly owned offices spanning the globe. The firm’s consultants specialize in all industries and functions, providing senior-level executive search, management assessment, and succession planning services.

DHR Global Recruits General Counsel for the Big Ten Conference

DHR Global has assisted in the recruitment of Anil Gollahalli as chief legal officer and general counsel of the Big Ten Conference. DHR’s managing partner and global sports practice leader Glenn Sugiyama headed the assignment. “When commissioner Kevin Warren first reached out to me to discuss this search and the importance of this placement to the future of the Big Ten, he stressed that he was looking for a rock star general counsel,” said Mr. Sugiyama. “Thanks to the outstanding reputation of the conference and the commissioner, we were able to put together a very strong, highly targeted pool of candidates.”

“As strong as our pool was, Anil was a candidate that stood out for me from day one,” Mr. Sugiyama said. “He is going to be a great member of the executive team and an integral part of the future of the Big Ten. Congratulations to the Big Ten and commissioner Warren on an outstanding hire.”

DHR’s sports practice is a global specialty for the firm with capabilities on six continents across all sports-related organizations. These range from Fortune 500 companies and professional sports teams to public and private university athletics. The firm has overseen searches for the University of Pittsburgh, Colorado State University, Fresno State University, San Jose State, Kansas, Syracuse, and Quinnipiac University, among others.

Mr. Sugiyama’s past searches include the 2006 Stanford football search that landed Jim Harbaugh. He assisted Purdue in hiring former Cardinal Jeff Brohm as its football coach and Florida State University (FSU) in an athletic director search that saw former University of Louisville AD Vince Tyra become a candidate before FSU hired Seminole Boosters CEO Michael Alford.

Related: DHR Global Assists Michigan State in Head Football Coach Search

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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