When it was announced Monday that Kevin Blue would be UC Davis’ new athletic director, current and former Stanford coaches spread the word quickly: The Aggies’ gain was the Cardinal’s loss.
Former Stanford men’s basketball coach Johnny Dawkins told UCD men’s coach Jim Les that the 33-year-old Blue will be an impactful leader.
“Johnny spoke very highly of Kevin and thinks he is a rising star in the industry,” Les said. “He’s going to roll up his sleeves and go to work and bring great energy.”
Les said UCD women’s basketball coach Jennifer Gross also got a thumbs up on Blue from Tara VanDerveer, her Stanford counterpart.
I think we need to operate in progressive and innovative ways and not be satisfied with the status quo.
Kevin Blue, 33, UC Davis’ new athletic director
“Tara reached out to her and said, ‘Hey, UC Davis is getting a quality administrator. Good for you guys, but bad for Stanford,’ ” Les said. “When you hear from colleagues like that ‑ people you really respect and someone they worked closely with ‑ it makes us excited.”
Blue, Stanford’s senior associate athletic director for external relations, was introduced to the UCD community during a news conference Tuesday. Blue also had a brief meet-and-greet with Aggies coaches. He will take over for interim AD Teresa Gould on June 21.
Blue was selected by acting Chancellor Ralph Hexter from a list of four finalists sent to him by a campus recruitment committee headed by Scott Carrell, the faculty athletics representative.
“I’m very impressed by Kevin’s vision for UC Davis,” said Hexter, before presenting Blue with his first Aggies baseball cap. “He is clearly committed to our student athletes by propelling our Aggies into new heights. … I have no doubt the broader community, … our faculty, staff and students, will all be eager to collaborate with Kevin as he leads intercollegiate athletics and build it into an even stronger and more successful franchise.”
Carrell said Blue met all the attributes the committee wanted. Blue values academics and has sports management experience and a track record of generating income. He also is seen as someone who can engage the campus and community and is open to criticism and being challenged.
With his youthful appearance, Blue easily could be mistaken for a UCD student. He is part of a growing youth movement in college and professional sports administration.
“I think we need to operate in progressive and innovative ways and not be satisfied with the status quo,” Blue said. “But while youth may lend a different perspective, it’s really not tied to age. Anyone at any age can develop a style of thought that allows us to preserve our core values while also moving forward and being more progressive in the way we do business.”
Blue, a 2005 Stanford graduate, had a lot on his plate during his seven years working in Cardinal athletics.
I’m very impressed by Kevin’s vision for UC Davis. He is clearly committed to propelling our Aggies into new heights. The faculty, staff and students will all be eager to collaborate with Kevin as he leads intercollegiate athletics into an even stronger and more successful franchise.
Acting UC Davis Chancellor Ralph Hexter, on new director of athletics Kevin Blue
He provided oversight of sales, sponsorships, marketing, communications, business strategy, ticket operations, fan experience and video. He worked extensively with the Stanford football program, and football ticket sales revenue doubled during his tenure. He oversaw Stanford’s relationship with key sponsors and the Pac-12 Networks. He also served as an administrator for several varsity sports.
But he didn’t offer any immediate ideas for change at UCD. He said he has a collaborative style and will rely heavily on Aggies athletics department colleagues’ and coaches’ insights and views early in his tenure. He will work closely with Gould, who had extensive sports administration experience at Cal.
Gould served 13 months as interim AD. But she wasn’t a candidate for the permanent job because her husband, Ron, is the school’s football coach.
Les said Gould deserved kudos because she played more than a caretaker role.
“She was awesome,” Les said. “I saw her yesterday and gave her a big hug and thanked her. She didn’t just keep this ship afloat. She changed the culture, she changed the attitude and moved the ship forward.”