October 1, 2018 – Universities continue to turn to executive search firms to find new athletic directors. Eastman & Beaudine recently placed Michael Kelly as the new athletic director of the University of South Florida (USF). Mark Harlan stepped down from the post this spring.
“Michael Kelly is a proven leader with a wealth of experience across the national collegiate athletic landscape, as well as within Tampa Bay,” said Judy Genshaft, University of South Florida System president. “He has a track record of promoting competitive excellence, building strong community relationships, developing marketing campaigns, reaching fundraising goals and supporting academic achievement.”
“His future-focused vision and high moral character will ensure that our already strong USF Athletics program reaches new heights,” she said. “I look forward to all that USF and the Tampa Bay community will achieve under Michael’s leadership.”
Mr. Kelly most recently served as COO for the College Football Playoff, where he directed the organization’s day-to-day operations and was instrumental in launching the playoff. Prior to that, Mr. Kelly served as senior associate commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference, overseeing football, broadcasting and communications. Mr. Kelly is the only person to ever serve as lead local executive for three different Super Bowls in three different communities, having been president of the Super Bowl host committees in Tampa Bay (Super Bowl XXXV), Jacksonville (Super Bowl XXXIX) and South Florida (Super Bowl XLI).
In addition, Mr. Kelly worked earlier in his career as USF’s associate athletic director for external affairs, supervising the key areas of development, ticket sales, ticket operations, corporate sponsorships, marketing, broadcasting and licensing. Kelly helped USF Football transition to Division I-A and led fundraising efforts for a new athletic center.
USF was admitted into the NCAA in 1968, and competes at the Division I level. Nearly 500 student-athletes compete for the university each academic year. The school sponsors 17 varsity men’s and women’s sports.
The Search Firm
For over 40 years, Eastman & Beaudine has been a leader in executive searches among sports, entertainment & business clients seeking direction, assessment and counsel to build their senior leadership teams. The firm is led by Bob Beaudine, who has helped shape the leadership teams for the NBA, Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, Arena Football, the U.S. Olympics, NASCAR, Professional Bull Riders, horse racing and Ultimate Fighting Championships. He was recently named to the board of directors for the Texas Rangers and he sits on the advisory board of directors for the College Football Assistance Fund and Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business.
“Bob Beaudine challenges you to think differently. His unique approach to life and business has helped elevate many careers,” said Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, in a past interview.
Sports and Entertainment Expansion Elevating Search Business
Over the last quarter century, the sports sector has grown into a formidable global industry. Historically, professional sports teams operated on a relatively modest level, with league officials, team owners, managers, and coaches surrounding themselves with people they knew and trusted from their own small worlds. College sports teams relied on in-house search committees and word-of-mouth recommendations. Much of that has forever changed.
Teams with tremendous followings like the Dallas Cowboys, Real Madrid and Manchester United have seen their valuations soar into the billions of dollars. That’s attracted search firms – big time. Seasoned recruiters now provide strategic planning advice, in addition to talent identification services, with the capability of applying their findings to speed along the process in the hunt for talent. Here’s some further reading from Hunt Scanlon Media.
Eastman & Beaudine has conducted numerous assignments to find head football or basketball coaches for a number of universities, including the University of Missouri, Arizona State, Clemson, the University of Mississippi, Texas Tech and other top college sports programs. Mr. Beaudine recently helped with the placement of new athletic directors at Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss and the University of Alaska, as well as top executives with the Miami Heat and the Atlanta Hawks.
Athletic directors are playing an increasingly vital role at colleges and universities across the country. With the expansion of athletic departments and, for the larger schools, the infusion of big dollars for sports, more schools have turned to search firms when such positions become open. Too much is at stake, they feel, to go it alone. What’s more, the AD job has come to demand greater business and management skills than the typical academic search.
SRi, an international executive search firm focused on the sports, media and entertainment sectors, published a report not long ago on how the modern day AD serves more as a CEO-type function than as a coaching figurehead. SRi recently spoke with several university presidents on this topic.
“The AD today is the CEO of athletic operations at a college,” said John Lahey, current president at Quinnipiac University. “Thirty to 40 years ago, you were more likely to see former coaches and athletes promoted into those roles as a way of rewarding success or longevity, but now you need a business person who is able to lead people, generate revenue and understand how the marketing and brand of athletics can impact the entire university.”
Bill Lennox, president at St. Leo University in Florida, said schools must make sure that the AD is a senior member of the entire university staff. “We moved the AD to the equivalent level of a vice president, so he sat in all of the meetings and in the decision-making process with the rest of the VPs of the university,” he said.
The modern AD position oversees finances, marketing, human resources, student-athlete wellness, media contracts, and of course overall performance – all while salaries head well into seven figures and beyond, said SRi.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media