Ken Kavanagh, 53, is in his fifth year as Director of Athletics at Florida Gulf Coast University. Kavanagh, the second full-time athletic director in school history, began his duties at FGCU in June of 2009.
Kavanagh, who came to FGCU after 13 years at Bradley University, was appointed to his position on May 7, 2009, by FGCU President Dr. Wilson G. Bradshaw.
In recognition of his accomplishments and as a leader in college athletics, Kavanagh has twice been named an Athletics Director of the Year by his peers, most recently during the 2013 National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Convention in Orlando in June when he was named one of four Division I-AAA Under Armour Athletic Directors of the Year. He previously earned such distinction during his tenure as AD at Bradley University at the 2008 NACDA Convention in Dallas where he was tabbed as the Central Region Athletics Director of the Year for Division I.
Over his first four years in Southwest Florida, Kavanagh has helped FGCU reach new levels of success on the field, in the classroom and in the community. The Eagles have won a combined 11 Atlantic Sun regular-season titles, seven A-Sun Tournament titles and four consecutive Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association (CCSA) championships.
Also in those four years, FGCU’s student-athletes have excelled in the classroom as the 250 student-athletes achieved a record 3.29 cumulative GPA in 2012-13 (includes a best-ever 3.31 collective GPA in the Spring Semester), led by 13 teams with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better. FGCU also had its first-ever D-I Academic All-American when Sarah Hansen was chosen to the women’s basketball squad. The Eagles have also have contributed more than 17,000 hours of community service the past four years as part of enhanced efforts within the department’s NCAA Life Skills initiatives.
Overall, 2012-13 was the most successful in FGCU annals, as the Eagles became the first A-Sun school in six years to capture all three of the conference’s All-Sport Trophies (Men’s, Women’s, and Combined). Five programs earned conference titles, and eight programs were represented in the postseason (seven in the NCAAs).
In the Fall, FGCU made a clean sweep of the Atlantic Sun regular-season team championships, as both men’s and women’s soccer pieced together three-peats and the volleyball program used a 15-game conference win streak to claim its third crown in six years – the three sports combined for a 29-4-2 record in A-Sun action. The soccer squads were one of just two programs in the country to win both conference tournaments; in both cases defending their titles and earning their second consecutive NCAA tourney berths.
Successes continued throughout the year, highlighted by men’s basketball knocking off eventual ACC Champion Miami in its first-ever Alico Arena sellout, before capturing its first A-Sun Tournament crown and NCAA berth. FGCU then became the ultimate Cinderella story by knocking off No. 2 seed Georgetown (78-68) and No. 7 seed San Diego State (81-71) en route to earning the first trip ever to the Sweet 16 by a No. 15 seed. For its work, FGCU earned a season-ending national ranking of No. 23. This eventually led to FGCU winning the 2013 ESPY for “Best Upset” of the year.
Women’s basketball continued its A-Sun dominance by earning its third title in four years and knocked off nationally-ranked LSU. They also established another NCAA Division I record for 3-pointers made in a single game (22), and in the process became the first team ever to earn a postseason berth in its first six seasons as a D-I member. Women’s swimming and diving captured its fifth straight CCSA crown, and sophomore stalwart Emma Svensson advanced to the NCAA Championships in three events for the second year in a row. Men’s golf also had a repeat individual performer in the NCAA Regionals (Tallahassee) via A-Sun Freshman of the Year Edward Figueroa, who was the No. 8 seed.
FGCU completed one of the most successful transitions to Division I in NCAA history under Kavanagh’s watch, culminating with the first year of postseason eligibility in 2011-12. Led by four teams that won both the Atlantic Sun regular season and tournament titles, six different FGCU programs advanced to or were represented in the NCAA Tournament/Championships. Individually, women’s swimming freshman Svensson helped the Green and Blue capture their fourth straight CCSA title en route to advancing to the NCAA Championships in three events, while men’s golf senior Brandon Pena was the No. 6 seed in the Athens Regional of the NCAA Men’s Golf Championships.
In 2011-12, FGCU was the only Division I school in the nation to win both its regular season and tournament title in both men’s and women’s soccer, and one of just 15 schools to have both its men’s and women’s basketball program advance to its respective conference tournament championship game. Women’s basketball’s A-Sun regular season title was its third in five years, as it posted the third undefeated season in conference history, but was the first to go 18-0. The softball program became the first team in school history to win an NCAA Tournament game, defeating No. 5 Florida in its first game in the Gainesville Regional.
Adding to its success on the field, FGCU’s 250+ student-athletes collectively put together its best year in the classroom with a record 3.21 cumulative grade-point average (GPA) that saw 73 percent of the student-athletes achieve a 3.0 GPA for the academic year. Out of FGCU’s 15 Division I programs, 12 of them achieved at least a 3.0 team GPA in one of the two semesters in 2011-12, with nine of teams achieving the feat in both semesters. As a group, FGCU student-athletes also turned in over 5,000 hours of community service.
Kavanagh’s dedication to the profession isn’t limited to FGCU. In 2011-12, he served as the President of the I-AAA Athletic Directors’ Association (D1-AAA ADA), for which he is one of its founders and is comprised of the 100 non-football playing Division I member institutions and nine related conferences. In 2013-14, he will serve as the D1-AAA ADA Treasurer. He is also in the midst of a four-year term representing the Atlantic Sun Conference on the NCAA’s Championship/Sport Management Cabinet and previously served on the NCAA D1 Men’s Soccer Committee from (2003-07) and was its Chair in 2007. This body is responsible for selecting the 48 teams that compete in the NCAA Tournament and oversees the administration of the event.
The 2010-11 season was FGCU’s final campaign in the Division I reclassifying period, as both the men’s and women’s soccer teams won A-Sun Championships in the fall, while the women’s basketball program followed with a A-Sun title and the women’s swimming and diving team brought home its third consecutive CCSA championship in the winter. The women’s basketball program advanced to its fourth consecutive WNIT and played in front of the largest crowd in school history in the second round against Florida, as a sellout crowd of 4,543 fans filled Alico Arena.
In his first year overseeing FGCU’s then-14 intercollegiate athletic programs, in addition to directing FGCU Athletics through the final stages of the Division I Certification process and NCAA Self Study, Kavanagh watched the Eagles take home their third straight A-Sun regular season title in baseball, while the women’s swimming & diving program captured its second consecutive CCSA championship. Overall, six programs finished in the top three in the A-Sun regular season standings, while baseball and volleyball participated in conference postseason play for the first time ever at the Division I level. Women’s basketball continued to build on its run of success, advancing to the WNIT for the third year in a row and finishing with a 24-7 record, including a perfect 15-0 mark at home.
FGCU’s facilities have also flourished under Kavanagh, as men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, baseball, cross country and tennis have all seen or are in the process of receiving major improvements to their home sites.
The final year in Kavanagh’s first decade on Bradley’s “Hilltop” will go down as one of the greatest all-around years in BU Athletics history. During the 2005-06 season, a school-record three teams earned NCAA Tournament invitations, beginning with the third at-large selection for the soccer program in the fall and continuing with the men’s basketball team’s historic run to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in March that included victories over nationally-ranked Kansas and Pitt. In addition, the women’s golf team won its fourth Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) championship in eight years to gain its third trip to the NCAA Regionals. In 2007-08, Men’s Soccer reached a milestone “Elite Eight” appearance and men’s basketball also achieved a runner-up finish in the 2008 initial College Basketball Invitational (CIT).
In 2008-09, the Braves witnessed benchmark success with their first-ever Missouri Valley Conference tournament title and NCAA Tournament berth and victory in softball, a runner-up finish in the inaugural Collegeinsider.com (CIT) postseason men’s basketball tournament and a record 21 victories in women’s basketball.
While the Braves enjoyed successes on the playing field with Kavanagh, Bradley’s student-athletes excelled in the classroom. For eight consecutive years, Bradley led the Valley in federal graduation rate (77 percent) and remained well ahead of the curve in the NCAA’s new Academic Progress Rate, receiving public recognition for its APR success in soccer, men’s golf, women’s tennis and volleyball.
Prior to the start of the 2007-08 athletic season, Bradley’s women’s basketball, women’s cross country, women’s golf, softball, women’s track and field and volleyball teams all were recognized once again for being among the national leaders in their respective sports for team grade point averages (GPA), while four individuals representing three sports (baseball, women’s golf and soccer) went on to gain national scholar-athlete honors in 2006-07.
Bradley’s student-athletes combined for a record 3.21 grade point average during the 2009 spring semester and met or exceeded Bradley’s competitive overall undergraduate population for 20 of 26 semesters. In addition to its graduation rate success, Bradley also tied for seventh nationally (with Harvard and the U.S. Naval Academy) in the initial NCAA Academic Progress Report released during the spring of 2005.
During Kavanagh’s tenure at Bradley, the Braves accumulated 31 Academic All-America or Scholar All-America awards. BU also achieved new single-game, regular season and attendance marks in men’s and women’s basketball, men’s soccer, and volleyball under his direction, as well as record revenue streams from external sources.
Kavanagh helped Bradley’s Athletic facilities make significant strides during his tenure: most notably, the baseball team’s move to O’Brien Field (home Stadium of the Chicago Cubs Class “A” affiliate the Peoria Chiefs) in 2002 and the subsequent transformation of the old ballpark into Shea Stadium. Opened in August of 2003, this soccer exclusive venue is one of the finest of its kind in the entire Midwest. Additional enhancements included aesthetic aspects of Carver Arena (home venue for men’s basketball) and Haussler Hall (athletic complex), locker room improvements for men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball, as well as upgrades to the sports medicine training, department offices, Bradley Park softball complex and the realization of the Markin Tennis Courts. Robertson Memorial Fieldhouse underwent a transformation during the summer of 2004, highlighted by the construction of a new strength and conditioning facility, satellite training area, women’s basketball offices and student-athlete study center.
Under Kavanagh’s direction in 1996, Bradley Athletics established the BU B.L.A.S.T. (Building Leadership and Supporting Teams) NCAA Life Skills Program, which is designed to enhance the total being of Braves’ student-athletes. It involves activities ranging from personal, social and career development to community service projects and leadership opportunities. Also, Bradley was commended in March of 2002 by U.S. News & World Report for having the seventh-best College Sports Program in terms of gender equity and the athletic department’s effort for equality was further recognized in 2007 when Bradley received an “A” from the Women’s Sports Foundation for its gender equity performance.
A current member of the Atlantic Sun Conference Marketing Committee, he is also the administrative liaison for men’s soccer, and has also been on the A-Sun’s Tournament Committee. He previously served two terms as the Vice President of the Missouri Valley Conference joint committee and was also a member of the MVC’s Executive and Media/Marketing Committees. He also chaired the MVC’s Championship and Officiating Committees and was a member of the MVC’s Gender Equity, Sportsmanship and Conference Relations Committees.
Also active in civic organizations, Kavanagh is a member of the Bishop Verot Catholic High School Board of Directors, as well as a long-standing current board member of the Boys & Girls Club and was a three-term president while in Peoria. He previously served on the advisory boards for the Salvation Army and Dunlap (IL) Recreation Association. A member of the 1999 Peoria’s “40 Leaders Under Forty” class, Kavanagh also maintains active membership with the Knights of Columbus.
Kavanagh went to Bradley from Bowling Green State University, where he steadily moved up the administrative ranks in nine years. After starting as an assistant athletic director in 1987, Kavanagh left BGSU in 1996 as the senior associate athletic director. In his final position with the Falcons, Kavanagh was the administrator for football, men’s basketball and hockey while also acting as event manager. Responsible for facility management, he also supervised the staffs for sports medicine, equipment and strength and conditioning. Kavanagh also served as the chief liaison for the financial affairs area.
Kavanagh began his administrative career by working in the athletic department at Yale University from 1982 to 1985, and then worked as a graduate assistant in the athletic department at the University of Notre Dame from 1985 to 1987 before joining Bowling Green.
Athletic administration runs in Kavanagh’s bloodlines: his uncle, Kevin Kavanagh, is the former baseball coach and athletic director at Loyola College in Baltimore, planting the seed that athletic administration would be his nephew’s calling. Likewise, Ken Kavanagh’s father, John, coached a highly-successful high school summer baseball program in Connecticut for 25 years that produced former Major Leaguer Tim Teufel and NFL Hall-of-Famer Steve Young.
A native of Greenwich, Conn., Kavanagh earned his undergraduate degree from Boston College in 1982 and his postgraduate degree from Notre Dame in 1987. Kavanagh is married to the former Mary Gorenz (Maple Park, Ill.) and the couple has five children: daughters the late Megan and Rose (23), as well as sons Mitchell (21) and twins Jack and Quinn (18).
The Kavanagh File
• Wife: Mary (married April 16, 1988)
• Children: the late Megan, Rose (22) – University of Notre Dame ’13, Mitchell (21) – junior at the University of Florida, and twins Jack and Quinn – high school seniors at Bishop Verot Catholic (18)
• Boston College, ’82: B.S. in Finance
• University of Notre Dame, ’87: M.B.A. in Marketing and Human Resources
1982-83: Assistant Manager of Contests and Promotions
1983-85: Director of Events and Team Travel
University of Notre Dame
1985-87: Graduate Assistant
Bowling Green State University
1987-96: Rose to Senior Associate Athletic Director
1996-2009: Director of Athletics
Florida Gulf Coast University
2009-Present: Director of Athletics