2021 Connect Sports Game Changers: Jennings “Rusty” Buchanan

Jennings “Rusty” Buchanan is the president and CEO of AAU.

2021 Connect Sports Game Changers: Jennings “Rusty” Buchanan

Jennings “Rusty” Buchanan
President and CEO, Amateur Athletic Union of the United States Inc. (AAU)
Cocoa Beach, Florida


Main Event: AAU Junior Olympic Games

What I do:  Leaning on skill sets I garnered as a collegiate coach and administrator, as well as those gained competing as an athlete at an elite level, I strive to build partnerships and platforms that help position the AAU as the continued leader in the amateur sports marketplace.

How I got here: I have been involved with the AAU for more than 35 years, competing first as an athlete for a spot on the 1980 U.S. Olympic track and field team and later hosting sporting events. I have been involved with local organizing committees for such events as the Pan American Games, the World Track and Field Championships, three United States Olympic Festivals and the Olympic Games. In 2014, I became the first vice president of the AAU. With the untimely passing of AAU President and CEO Dr. Roger J. Goudy, I assumed the duties as president and CEO of the AAU.

What I did to assist the sports tourism recovery during COVID: When the original location for the 54th AAU Junior Olympic Games fell through in summer 2020, we worked with the support of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Space Coast Office of Tourism, Florida Sports Foundation, School Board of Brevard County, Brevard County Board of County Commissioners and the Sunshine State Games to provide approximately 3,000 athletes a safe place to compete, bringing in more than $1 million in economic impact to the Space Coast, Florida, area. Under my supervision, the AAU created the blueprint for a safe return to sports for other organizations to follow as other areas of the country reopened to hosting sporting events.

Impressive stats: This June’s 48th AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships in Orlando was the world’s largest volleyball tournament, with 3,445 teams and 135,000 spectators, creating $173.2 million in economic impact for central Florida. Additionally, we’ve increased AAU membership by 12% from 2020 to present.

What’s next? We are introducing a comprehensive middle school program to provide participation opportunities for those areas where scholastic sports funding had been reduced or eliminated. A pilot program is being developed and launched in Brevard County, Florida. We are also exploring the addition of new sports to AAU program offerings, such as road race events or increasing AAU’s licensed soccer events.

Favorite vacation destination: Whistler, British Columbia

Favorite sports movie: “The Weight of Gold”