Towson University AD Leonard discusses brand partner

The importance of teaming up with the right partner

“Towson’s coaches and athletes do amazing things every day and I’ll create any opportunity I can to make sure the world knows about it,” said Tim Leonard, Athletic Director at Towson University. “Thanks to the hard work of my Sports Information Directors and social media staff, much of what my coaches, staff, and athletes do on game day gets the spotlight it deserves, but I wanted more.”

Leonard, in his seventh year as Towson’s athletic director, has always sought innovative ways to guide and grow the University’s athletic program. He’s reinvigorated partnerships with neighboring HBCU Morgan State and has made out-of-the-box hires like the addition of women’s basketball head coach Diane Richardson.

In late 2019, Leonard sought out the services of a professional who could help him and his staff bring Towson University Athletics’ unique stories to a national stage. His search brought him to Firestarter. Quickly the firm was able to bring greater attention to head basketball coach Pat Skerry’s efforts to increase autism awareness. Additionally, the firm was able to bring awareness to senior gymnast Olivia Lubarsky’s efforts to help her fellow student athletes manage their mental health.

What started as a way for Towson University Athletics to receive outside public relations support and content strategy has blossomed into something far more valuable to Leonard.

Name, image, and likeness

The topic of student athletes and the ability to profit from their own name, image, and likeness or NIL isn’t new. It’s a power struggle that has been circling around collegiate sports for decades. While the NCAA’s final policies and procedures won’t be known until late 2020, Leonard didn’t want to leave anything to chance.

“I wanted to tap into everything Frances knows on the subject. I wanted to make sure I understood all the blind spots before and after this policy goes into effect. Additionally, I wanted to proactively brainstorm ways to educate myself, my staff, and most importantly, our athletes, so that Towson is fully prepared to manage this topic moving forward.”


Since the COVID-19 pandemic took shape in the United States in early March, colleges and universities have had to rethink their entire structure—and that certainly includes collegiate sports. This unprecedented turn of events has left every single athletic director having to recreate every facet of their day-to-day operations.

“It’s been invaluable to have an advisor with insight to what’s happening on a larger scale who’s also able to help me process how I need to communicate internally and externally to all of Towson’s various stakeholders. Never has there been a time when what those of us in leadership positions say and do matters more. I want to take every opportunity to do it right.”

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