By Erik Galicia
A former professional athlete, attorney and assistant director with the NCAA has been selected to lead Riverside City College’s Athletics Department.
Payton Williams is a Riverside native. He was born at Parkview Community Hospital and attended Emerson Elementary School before becoming Fresno State University’s first academic all-American football player as an adult. He would go on to play for the Indianapolis Colts, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Canadian Football League’s Calgary Stampeders between 2000 and 2002.
After a stint as an attorney in the Bakersfield area, Williams decided to pursue his calling as an advocate for student-athletes. He called the opportunity to return to his hometown wonderful.
“It’s a destination position for me to have a chance to come back home,” Williams said. “Being able to impact student-athletes who grew up like me and want to have an opportunity to do more and have that experience as a college student-athlete, I want to make that experience as great as I can.”
Before serving as the director of Compliance and Academic Support at Azusa Pacific University, Williams served as the assistant director of Academic and Membership Affairs for the NCAA’s national office. There, he helped Community College student-athletes transfer to Historically Black Colleges and UnCOViversities.
Williams also worked with the NCAA’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and Academic Success Program to help limited resource institutions improve their academic performance.
“I was always drawn to student-athlete opportunity, whether that comes from waivers to have the opportunity to play or opportunities to improve academically,” he said. “The main goal is not just to celebrate on the podium as a champion, but to celebrate on the podium as a graduate.”
The new athletic director will now take on the task of navigating RCC Athletics through the COVID-19 pandemic and the return of sports to the college. The California Community College Athletic Association has set a Feb. 26 “opt-in” or “opt-out” deadline for participation in the Spring II athletic season.
According to Nicho DellaValle, RCC director of Sports Information, the college is on track to meet that deadline. The decision will ultimately come from the upper administration and is under review.
Williams noted that stakeholders from across the Riverside Community College District are working together to compile all the information necessary to make a decision.
“Obviously, we want to come back and compete,” he said. “But we must do that in the most safe manner that we can. If we’re unable to do that, then we just have to wait and be patient until we can because the safety of our student-athletes is most important.”
Other than navigating the pandemic safely, Williams’ goal for RCC Athletics to be a premier Community College athletics department, succeeding not only on the court or in the field, but also in the classroom.
“We want to make sure that we’re not only partying at the podium, but that we’re partying on the graduation stage as well,” he said. “Riverside is a special place. I love being here. Our staff and coaches love being here. We love winning here. We want to continue being a part of the community around us also.”
Jesus Coronel contributed to this story.