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Nov 24, 2022

Clemson’s Brand New Game

By: Tim Bourret

Note: The following appears in the South Carolina football gameday program.

Clemson’s first coordinator of its Name, Image & Likeness (NIL) activities never dreamed he would have a significant role in Clemson’s football program when he first came to the school as a student in August 1983.

He did hope to be involved with a legendary coach, but it was in a different sport.

C.D. Davies came to Clemson as a recruited walk-on infielder under Hall of Fame Head Coach Bill Wilhelm with the hopes of contributing to one of the top baseball programs in the nation. He had an outstanding high school career that included playing in the American Legion World Series.

“I grew up in the state of Ohio and my family was full of Ohio State Buckeye fans,” remarked Davies. “The first time I heard of Clemson was the 1978 Gator Bowl when the two teams played for the first time.”

Davies was a walk-on in the fall of 1983 for Wilhelm’s squad, but he was cut at the end of the fall.

“Baseball did not work out, but I loved Clemson and graduated in 1986.”

As it has turned out, Davies is now working with a future Hall of Fame football coach in a position that did not exist on any college campus two years ago.

In 2021, the NCAA made a radical change in its rules by allowing student-athletes to monetize their name, image and likeness. Prior to 2021, there were strict rules against student-athletes earning money for their autographs, commercials or public appearances.

It has led to a new industry, one that athletic departments all over the country are trying to navigate. It is not known how many schools have created a full-time position like Davies’ within the athletic department to advise and support student-athletes about their opportunities with NIL.

Head Coach Dabo Swinney could not have hired a more experienced person for his NIL coordinator position. He has more than three decades of experience as an executive and industry leader in lending and banking.

“The reason I am doing this is because I owe Clemson,” stated Davies, who is married to his wife, Jamie, with children Danielle Shaffer and Drew. “My kids went to Clemson. I met my wife here. My son-in-law is Richie Shaffer, who was a very good baseball player here. We are very much Clemson people. Getting the opportunity to be involved with this program was something I wanted to do.”

In addition to his role with Clemson, Davies serves as the CEO for Figure Acquisition Corporation.

His impressive business background also includes tenures as the CEO of CitiMortgage and head of Citi Global Mortgage, CEO of LendingTree, Wachovia Mortgage and QBE Insurance, as well as the head of Capital One Home Loans.

Davies entered the industry in 1988 with Wachovia, kicking off a tenure that included more than 18 years of service and culminated in his selection as CEO of Mortgage Corp in 2003. In that role, he led and managed a cross-functional leadership team with more than 3,500 associates across all three of the retail, direct and third-party business channels. Davies’ leadership helped the company triple its market share and increase its mortgage volume by 800 percent.

In 2007, Davies moved to LendingTree, spending one year as CEO and an additional year-and-a-half as vice chairman. Then in 2009, Davies became president of Home Loans at Capital One, managing a $50 billion servicing and asset portfolio, growing the company’s mortgage services and improving its reputation with both consumers and regulatory agencies.

Davies was CEO of QBE North America (2012-14), helping the business integrate the two recently purchased companies into one while simultaneously transforming the newly integrated entity into a shared services business model.

He was CEO of CitiMortgage (2014-18) and was charged with growing its American mortgage business. He established a culture of disciplined execution, upgraded leadership talent and leveraged 30 years of management experience in financial services and mortgage banking, exceeding all goals established prior to his arrival, including revenues, expense, CRA, EBIT and ROA, as the company was ranked No. 1 by J.D. Power for purchase transactions in 2016.

“It was not a tough decision to take this position,” said Davies. “In 2018, towards the end of my time at Citi, I was working with Coach Swinney on a project that was in conjunction with his All In Ball. During the time I spent with him, we talked a lot of non-football. I told him I was going to leave Citi. I mentioned to him, ‘If you can ever use someone with my background, let me know’.”

Fast forward to April 2022, and that opportunity came up.

“We were having a meeting about the opening of The Shepherd Hotel in June, and he said he wanted to talk to me about NIL and how I could be an asset to the department when it came to helping the guys in terms of education and giving some advice.”

That is when Swinney asked him about coming on board as Clemson’s NIL coordinator. A month later, Davies was in his office at Clemson.

“I started out reading everything I could about NIL and becoming indoctrinated in all aspects of the program.

“This is such a terrific program. The culture here is similar to Wall Street in that Coach Swinney spends so much time on culture. I started with the All In Meetings in the summer, and I did something similar with my companies as well. It is so important to start at the top communicating culture, goals and an interaction model.”

In some ways, Davies’ job is a bit easier, because he doesn’t have to follow someone. In other ways, it is difficult, because it seems that the rules for NIL are constantly changing.

“We are trying to put in a process and procedure that will benefit our student-athletes. It all must be aligned with Coach Swinney’s culture.

“NIL is getting a lot of attention around the country, and it certainly comes up in recruiting. But, it is a spoke in the wheel. We don’t want a prospect who is coming to school just for an NIL deal. But at the same time, we don’t want to lose recruits because we don’t have those opportunities.”

In general, Davies serves as an expert resource for Clemson student-athletes as they leverage their visibility and navigate opportunities to capitalize and monetize on opportunities in the business sector.

It is a role that Swinney and the Clemson administration, led by Director of Athletics Graham Neff, see as very important.

“The purpose of our program has never changed,” said Swinney. “We want to build great men through the game and equip them for the future when their playing days are over. NIL has been another area that needed to be addressed.

“It’s not the focal point, but it’s important. The athletic training room is not the focal point, but you better have a good athletic training room.

“I hired C.D. Davies, something I spent a lot of time on. I doubt anyone in the country has an NIL coordinator as qualified as the one we have. We have a guy who has been a CEO for CitiMortgage. My job is to give our players every resource they need to be successful. We want to educate them, train them and protect them. It’s a great opportunity. C.D. has been amazing.”

The infrastructure of the program when it comes to NIL is about to get stronger. Construction is near completion on the Clemson Athletic Branding Institute (CAB) at Allen N. Reeves Football Complex.

“The CAB will serve many purposes, but it will be the center for providing in-house education and opportunities for NIL for our players,” said D.J. Gordon, director of football operations and external affairs. “It will be the hub for all activities that have to do with NIL.”

One of the social media rooms will have an infinity wall backdrop with many options for the different productions. The preseason player photo shoots, nicknamed “CU Showcase,” will be shot there as well.

Davies’ office will be in the facility on the second floor. It will house a social media room, where Tiger players can produce videos or photos in conjunction with their NIL opportunities. The facility will also have a room where players can produce podcasts.

The Clemson Athletic Branding Institute will be the new home for all player media interviews on Mondays and Tuesdays during the season, including appearances on nationwide television networks like ESPN and ACC Network. It will also be available for individual or multi-player sessions with Director of Football Communications Ross Taylor for practice interviews or general discussions about dealing with the media.

Additionally, Clemson Applied Science Lab (CASL), under the direction of Alex Bina, will be housed in the facility, as will a new NFL scout meeting space and an NFL player locker room.

As Gordon said in summary, “It is a facility that will enhance the opportunities and provide education for our players in a number of areas when it comes to telling their story and enhancing their brand.”