Julie D. Vannatta ’87: Coaching the University
As with any great team, there are always people behind the scenes who make sure operations are running smoothly. Sure, players are scoring points and coaches are calling the plays, but plenty of invaluable people are doing their part to ensure those things happen. Julie D. Vannatta ’87 has been an integral part of Ohio State Athletics for 17 years.
Having worked in the Office of Legal Affairs since 1992, Vannatta has been the go-to person for the Department of Athletics in any and all legal matters. When she first came to the University, the Office of Legal Affairs was fairly new. “I was the second lawyer hired in the office,” she said. “And at the time I was dealing with real estate, construction, constitutional law, faculty issues — whatever walked through the door.”
Prior to joining the office, Vannatta worked for five years at Thompson Hine and focused her practice on commercial litigation. Her time with the firm proved to be very beneficial. “When you start (working) at most universities you need to be able to come in and hit the ground running and not require a lot of supervision,” she explained. “Thompson Hine prepared me well to handle everything that was thrown at me early in my career here.”
With the addition of more lawyers, Vannatta’s position in the Office of Legal Affairs began to evolve as she began to take on more work related to Ohio State’s massive athletics department. Former Athletic Director Andy Geiger took notice and realized the value of having her at the University. Vannatta soon became legal counsel to the largest athletics department in the country, and one that has faced some turbulent legal issues, including controversies involving Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett and the firing of former men’s basketball coach Jim O’Brien.
“Those were relatively public matters, and I was very involved with both of them,” said Vannatta, adding that she was disappointed in the outcome of both matters.
But those are just a small part of a job in which Vannatta greatly enjoys.
“I love my job,” she said. “I love the people I work with, both in the Office of Legal Affairs and the Athletics Department.”
One of her fondest memories is being at the football National Championship game in 2002 and celebrating the victory after the game with the coaching staff. She also remembers working all night until nearly dawn one year to negotiate a contract for a coach who ended up not coming to Ohio State by the next afternoon.
On a day-to-day basis, her work consists of reviewing and negotiating contracts that govern the business of the Department of Athletics, providing advice on issues involving student-athletes, counseling on NCAA compliance issues, and fielding public records requests from the media.
Her husband, Mark Vannatta ’87, is a partner at Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease in Columbus. The couple have two sons: Eric, 16, and Kevin, 13. “We do have pretty busy schedules, but it’s nice because we both understand the nature of our jobs,” she said. “We both understand that there are unexpected crises that arise that need both of us to accommodate each other’s work crises and help out extra at home.”
A sports enthusiast years before joining the Office of Legal Affairs, Vannatta stays fit practicing yoga, jogging, and playing tennis. And while she is a true Buckeyes fan, her favorite sporting events are those that involve her two teenage sons.