Twelve years after finishing his final game as a member of the Butler Men’s Basketball team that competed in back-to-back national championship games, Grant Leiendecker ’11 returned to Hinkle Fieldhouse in August in a new role as Associate Vice President for Athletics.
“I’ve walked into that building 1,000 times, but to know I’m walking in as an employee now is surreal,” Leiendecker says. “It means so much to me as an Indiana kid who grew up loving basketball to get to come to work here every day. I had a tremendous academic and athletic experience at Butler, so it’s really cool to be back and have it all come full circle.”
Leiendecker most recently served as the Assistant Vice President, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Development at Marquette University, and before that worked in athletics fundraising at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill. In his new role, Leiendecker will lead the comprehensive advancement program for Butler Athletics, reporting to Barry Collier ’76, Vice President and Director of Athletics.
“My experience as a student-athlete here was really transformational when I think about my career and life trajectory and how I grew as a person and leader. The life lessons I find myself leaning on most often were developed here from my coaches and my teammates. So I’m really humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to now give an experience back to our current and future students.”
Leiendecker was inducted into the Butler Athletics Hall of Fame in 2021 along with his teammates from the 2010 and 2011 teams that made appearances in the national championship games. He says the values of The Butler Way were instrumental to the success of those teams, and will continue to be at the heart of Butler Athletics going forward. Still, he sees opportunities to enhance the athletics program further through philanthropic support.
“We will always have our Butler values to guide us, but we cannot rely on those alone for our success because we’re competing in a new era. There’s an opportunity for us to invest in some key areas that are going to help us maintain and continue to elevate our success going forward.”
Among those key areas are investments in the student-athlete experience–everything from travel and facilities to nutrition and mental health support.
“We’re relatively behind our BIG EAST peers in some of those areas, so there are opportunities for alumni, parents, and friends to help us make sure we’re providing a competitive and supportive experience for all our student-athletes. At the foundation that means making sure their mental and physical health are prioritized so they’re in the best possible position to compete for BIG EAST championships.”
With the introduction of legislation allowing student-athletes to benefit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL), that also includes support for All Good Dawgs, Butler’s NIL collective.
“A strong NIL collective is becoming a very important aspect of running a high-achieving athletics program. We’re fortunate to have the leadership and alignment that we do with the All Good Dawgs NIL Collective. We need to continue educating Butler supporters on the importance of investing in this as it relates to success in recruiting and providing a great studentathlete experience,” says Leiendecker.
As he enjoys the nostalgia of returning to his alma mater, he is eager to reconnect with other former student-athletes whose lives were shaped by their Butler experience.
“Our student-athletes have such a unique experience on this campus because of the time spent with their coaches and teammates; you’re bonded in a unique way and when you leave this place, you miss that,” Leiendecker says. “That’s a special relationship, and our job is to make sure that we’re maintaining that connection and encouraging our former student-athletes to stay engaged and come back. I look forward to working closely with our Athletics and Advancement staff to take advantage of the opportunities in front of us. I couldn’t be more grateful to be back at Butler and I’m looking forward to getting to work.”