Keli Zinn believes she is right where she is supposed to be.\r\nAnd, though, she worked hard to get there, she said she\u2019s also a \u201cbig believer in destiny.\u201d\r\nZinn, 39, a Petersburg native, is WVU\u2019s deputy director of athletics and was recently named to the Sports Business Journal\u2019s Forty Under 40 for 2019.\r\nWVU Athletic Director Shane Lyons nominated Zinn, but she was surprised to learn she\u2019d made the list.\r\n\u201cYou don\u2019t get this type of recognition without someone putting your name forward,\u201d Zinn said. \u201cI know he thinks a lot of me. He\u2019s been exceptional for my career.\u201d\r\nTo Lyons\u2019 mind, Zinn deserves the accolades.\r\n\u201cKeli is my right hand. I\u2019ve said it 1,000 times that I cannot do my job without her assistance,\u201d Lyons said. \u201cKeli is in the trenches daily, helping us to run this department. Her leadership and work ethic are vital to our overall success. I have great trust and admiration for her, and this award is quite deserving. Not only am I happy for her, I am quite proud of her.\u201d\r\nZinn likens her job to a CEO, handling the day-to-day duties of an athletic department employing 213.\r\n\u201cWe have a senior staff of 10 who have oversight of various areas,\u201d she said. \u201cThe goal for me, in my role, is a lot of day-to-day administrative expectations to allow Shane to be at the head of the department.\r\n\u201cMy job is to determine what I handle and take care of and what Shane needs to be aware of.\u201d\r\nZinn also serves as the administrator to the football program.\r\nA graduate of Petersburg High School, Zinn has been into sports since she was a young girl.\r\n\u201cI started sports as far back as I can remember,\u201d she said. \u201cI played baseball with the boys because there were no girls\u2019 teams.\u201d\r\nIn high school, she played basketball, tennis and volleyball. She came to WVU and walked onto the tennis team, but quickly realized college sports were not for her \u2014 at least as a participant.\r\n\u201cI decided to put my time and energy elsewhere,\u201d she said. \u201cI struggled to figure out what that looked like for me.\u201d\r\nShe thought about studying political science or psychology, but her passion for athletics kept her connected to the sports world.\r\nThat\u2019s how she found her way to bachelor\u2019s and master\u2019s degrees in sport management. Initially, she thought she\u2019d move on to law school and eventually become a sports agent.\r\nBut fate had other plans. She volunteered in the university\u2019s compliance office as a student. When she graduated, she got a job with the Big East office in Rhode Island. That\u2019s when WVU was still in the Big East conference.\r\n\u201cWhen I left Morgantown in 2003 to take the job with the Big East, I wanted to do the best job wherever God planted me,\u201d Zinn said.\r\nIn the conference office, she could watch administrators from all the schools, taking what she thought was good and discarding the rest.\r\n\u201cThat\u2019s an awareness and knowledge I carried with me,\u201d she said.\r\nFrom the Big East, she took a job in compliance with the University of Maryland.\r\nIn 2010, then-WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck was looking for someone to head up his compliance department. He asked for suggestions from the Big East and Zinn was recommended.\r\nAgain, Zinn, said, everything fell into place.\r\n\u201cI was ready to move out of compliance,\u201d she said. \u201cIt\u2019s an important job, but it\u2019s tough because you are the person who is enforcing the rules and the person saying no. That can really wear on you.\u201d\r\nLuck promised there would be opportunities for her to get out of compliance and grow her career, so she made the move.\r\n\r\n\u201cI never expected eight years later to be in a position that life is coming together,\u201d she said. \u201cI couldn\u2019t be more happy. I feel blessed. It\u2019s been a tremendous journey.\u201d\r\nThe journey is not over and one day Zinn hopes to be an athletic director at a Power 5 university.\r\n\u201cI don\u2019t know where that will be or when,\u201d she said. \u201cI do know there are certain places I don\u2019t want to work.\r\n\u201cIf a decade from now, that doesn\u2019t come to fruition, I suspect I\u2019ll still be happy where I\u2019m at.\u201d\r\nZinn acknowledged it\u2019s unusual for women to be in these positions, especially at Power 5 schools, but it\u2019s not impossible. And, she knows there is nothing a man can do that she can\u2019t.\r\n\u201cI tell young women and girls coming up through the system, \u2018you can focus on the numbers or focus on those who are there and say I can achieve that, too.\u2019\u201d\r\nWVU President Gordon Gee also thinks highly of Zinn. In 2014, he named her interim athletic director and was impressed with the way she held Luck\u2019s position and was part of the group to find Lyons.\r\n\u201cI think the world of her,\u201d Gee said. \u201cShe really is one of the brightest young stars in academics in this country.\r\n\u201cShe knows athletics back and forth. She\u2019s tough and kind at the same time.\u201d\r\nZinn credits Luck, Lyons and Gee with having faith in her and letting her prove her worth.\r\nAnd, she credits another man with always having her back. That\u2019s her husband, Nathaniel, a Clarksburg native who is an assistant AD of\r\nmarketing.\r\nShe called him an \u201camazing man\u201d who supports her.