EL PASO, TEXAS –Director of Athletics Jim Senter announced on Tuesday that Nick Popplewell has been named Associate Athletic Director for Development at UTEP, and Robert Acunto has been promoted to Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Relations.
“I am extremely pleased to have Nick join our team at UTEP,” Director of Athletics Jim Senter said. “He is a proven and accomplished administrator. He has demonstrated he can move the revenue needle and now he gets to expand his responsibilities into the field of development. I have complete confidence that Nick will connect with our donor base and build meaningful, fruitful relationships that result in increased philanthropy for Miner Athletics. Our mantra has been that ‘Every Person Makes A Difference’ or #EPMAD and Nick will be a terrific example of that initiative.”
”It is a tremendous honor to join the Miner family and lead the development efforts for UTEP Athletics,” Popplewell said. “I am ecstatic to get to El Paso and hit the ground running, helping to expand the excellence already in place. I can promise Miner fans that we will work tirelessly to take things to the next level. It’s an exciting time to be involved with UTEP and the future is extremely bright!
”I would like to sincerely thank Jim Senter and the rest of the UTEP staff and community for this unbelievable opportunity. My wife, Chelsea, and I are overjoyed and I can’t wait to get started! Go Miners!!”
Popplewell comes to the Sun City after serving as Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing and Digital Media at Colorado State since May of 2015. While in Fort Collins he oversaw the marketing, graphic design, video, community outreach, social media, game/event production and spirit squad areas. He also served as assistant sport supervisor for the men’s golf and women’s tennis programs.
Under Popplewell’s leadership, Colorado State’s football ticket sales revenue increased by 43 percent in 2017. The Rams also set school records for total number of season tickets and season attendance average.
Popplewell helped oversee the construction of a $1.8 million control room that housed the video production for both the football and basketball venues.
The native of Buhl, Idaho was also a member of Colorado State’s licensing and merchandise leadership team. In 2015-16, CSU licensing royalties grew by nearly 35 percent. The following year (2016-17) royalties expanded again, growing by almost 20 percent. Popplewell is very active in NACMA (National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators) and served as the Mountain West conference representative.
Popplewell spent three years (2012-15) as Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing and Branding at Wyoming. His efforts resulted in the advertising budget doubling to over $650,000 via donations, trade partnerships and sponsorships. He developed the Athletics Brand Standards Guide including an official department font, numbering system, tagline and a new secondary mark. He chaired the department’s external operations meetings. Popplewell assisted with the Arena-Auditorium reseating process and implemented a variable pricing structure for men’s basketball that generated $250,000 more than the budgeted revenue as well as increased overall attendance.
He also directed the department’s customer service strategies, producing the “WYO Way,” a comprehensive plan for fan engagement, and the development of a fan advisory board. Popplewell helped create the Poke Pregame Zone and Tailgate Alley to enhance the football gameday experience, resulting in increased fan enjoyment and excitement. He helped grow UW’s digital media efforts as well, launching the department’s first mobile app. He devised a social media strategy that increased exposure for all Wyoming accounts, with the number of followers on the main Athletics Facebook page growing by over 2,000 percent. Recognized for his leadership in student engagement, Popplewell was able to increase student attendance at UW football games by nearly 20 percent with marked increases in men’s basketball and volleyball as well.
Popplewell spent four years (2008-12) at his alma mater, the University of Idaho, starting as Director of Marketing before being elevated to Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing, Branding and Sales. During his time with the Vandals, he was involved with numerous transformational projects. In 2010, he produced a NACMA award-winning football marketing plan that resulted in a record number of season tickets being sold and an 8-to-1 return on investment. He also oversaw the reorganization of the UI Ticket Office, including the implementation of the first-ever outbound sales unit. Popplewell assisted with the messaging and advertising for the $32 million Kibbie Dome renovation project which included a reseating campaign for football. He also aided in the process for a new, state-of-the-art video board in the Kibbie Dome, collaborating with potential vendors and helping with fundraising plans and presentations.
Popplewell worked closely with Idaho Vandals Sports Properties (IVSP), assisting with the negotiation process for a new multimedia rights agreement with Learfield, Inc. He also partnered with IVSP in overhauling the event scripting process and gameday experience for all sports. Serving as the chair of the department’s electronic communications committee, he instituted and supervised the first-ever social media accounts and the first-ever mobile application. Popplewell was responsible for drafting the department’s integrated brand marketing and communications plan including a tagline, brand framework and core values. He was also a member of the University’s strategic brand leadership group and brand marketing council. He served as the University’s trademarks and licensing director for one year, handling day-to-day communications with the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC). During that time, UI experienced a record year in royalties and instituted “Vandal Spirit Fridays,” a wear-your-gear-day for faculty, staff, students, alumni and fans.
Popplewell received his bachelor’s degree in Business-Marketing from Idaho in 2008. He added a master’s degree in Education-Sport Administration from Washington in 2009. In addition, he received his MBA in Business Administration from Wyoming in 2015. His wife, Chelsea, has served as the head diving coach at Colorado State since April, 2016.
Acunto, who was recently hired as Associate Athletic Director for Development, will move into the position vacated by Chris Park, who was recently named Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Relations at Washington State. Acunto filled a similar role at The Citadel, working under Senter, prior to being promoted to Interim Athletic Director upon Senter’s departure to UTEP. Acunto’s duties with the Miners will include overseeing the development, marketing, ticketing and video production & graphic design areas, while serving as the sport administrator for football and men’s golf.