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Volume 22 No. 35
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Forty Under 40: Keli Zinn

Photo: kaitlyn cole / wvu athletic communications

Deputy Athletics Director and Chief Operating Officer, West Virginia University

Age: 39

Born: Cumberland, Md.

Education: West Virginia University, B.S. and M.S., sport management

Family: Husband, Nathaniel

 

What gets you fired up? When I hear the Pride of West Virginia marching band’s first practice of the summer. It’s that moment each year when you know the college football season is upon us. 
You wish you knew 10 years ago: What’s meant to be will always find its way — don’t overstress.  

Profession you’d most like to attempt:  Wedding planner. 

Guilty Pleasure: Reality TV. 

Could not go a day without: Prayer.

Causes supported: Chestnut Ridge Church, United Way and WVU’s Women Supporting Athletics.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Dabo Swinney. Who wouldn’t want to spend the day with Dabo?  

Most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve done: Cliff jumping in Jamaica. But today you wouldn’t find me brave enough to skip an extra step at the bottom of the stairs.  

We’d be surprised to know that… : I have never tweeted.

In her fourth year as deputy athletic director at West Virginia, Keli Zinn runs much of the day-to-day operations for AD Shane Lyons. That has put her in the middle of intense conversations with architects and designers on major facility projects, agents during football coaching searches and high-dollar donors during major capital fundraising initiatives.  

But it was back in 2014 that she began to turn heads in the Big 12 with her poise and composure during her stint as the Mountaineers’ interim AD after Oliver Luck left.

Now she’s putting all of those experiences to work.

“I find myself working in the weeds a lot more,” Zinn said. “The conversations I’m having now are about depreciation of brick and mortar, relocating mechanical and all of the components in the bid process.”

In addition to her role in West Virginia’s $100 million capital campaign for facility and infrastructure maintenance, Zinn was deeply involved in the search for a new football coach when Dana Holgorsen abruptly quit after last season to go to Houston. Zinn is the primary administrator with oversight of football.

“We had a small group and we were working quickly,” Zinn said of a process that wound up with the hiring of Neal Brown from Troy. “It ended up being the worst-kept secret, but we got our guy.

“What I learned is that you can’t ever be too prepared. You always have to be ready to move. Plan your work and work your plan.”