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Dr. Kevin Blue is in his second year as Director of Athletics at UC Davis, an athletics program on the rise that is nationally known for successfully embodying the scholar-athlete ideal at an elite public university. Blue is one of the youngest athletics directors in Division I, and the forward-thinking manner by which UC Davis Athletics operates reflects his modern perspective.
Blue’s leadership has already catalyzed significant progress for UC Davis Athletics. Using a thoughtful and analytical planning process, Blue developed a comprehensive strategy for the organization and defined a clear path forward to reaching its goals. Blue’s strategy has successfully aligned organization efforts and the Aggies are moving forward swiftly.
Under Blue’s direction, in 2016-2017 UC Davis Athletics set a school record for yearly fundraising revenue generated, exceeding the previous high watermark by more than 20%. A notable fundraising highlight was the establishment of the first endowed coaching position in UC Davis history. Thanks to generosity of the families of Mike Child and Steve Meisel, the head coaching position for men's water polo, held by Dan Leyson, was renamed the Child and Meisel Families Director of Men's Water Polo. Blue also launched the Marya Welch Initiative in support of facility projects to benefit Aggie women’s teams.
Part of Blue’s strategy for UC Davis Athletics is for the organization to establish itself as the best athletics program in the country in preparing student-athletes to seek and obtain excellent jobs and graduate school opportunities upon graduation. To that end, Blue hired Dr. Mike Lorenzen for the newly created role of Senior Associate Athletics Director for Student-Athlete Outcomes to build and oversee the unique “Aggie Evo System”. Every UC Davis student-athlete now receives systemic career development training starting immediately in the freshman year, and other support to strengthen the interpersonal competencies that employers and grad schools seek. These preparatory experiences are mandatory and are fully integrated into student-athlete life, to the same degree as strength training and sports medicine. Coach bonuses are awarded for meeting criteria related to student-athlete outcomes. A network of industry leaders from organizations in Sacramento, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley supports the Aggie Evo System by providing employment opportunities, informational interviews, and career advice to student-athletes.
Underemployment is an increasingly pervasive nationwide problem among recent college graduates – and also among student-athletes, who spend much of their non-academic time focusing on sports rather than future employment – and the Aggie Evo System has placed UC Davis Athletics in a position of national leadership for mitigating it. No school that UC Davis competes against places a higher priority on postgraduate success for student-athletes, and no other school has a program as comprehensive as the Aggie Evo System. The student-athlete experience at UC Davis has been modernized to fit the demands of the contemporary job market. It features preparation for postgraduate success as a central focus rather than an optional side activity.
UC Davis Athletics also enjoyed its most successful year in competition as a Division I program during Blue’s his first year on campus. The men’s basketball team won the Big West tournament championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history, winning a game in the First Four before falling to tradition power Kansas. Conference team championships were also captured in women’s basketball and men’s water polo. Several Aggie student-athletes achieved individual championships, All-America recognitions, and scholar-athlete of the year honors.
Blue was hired to be the Director of Athletics at UC Davis at age 33 following a seven-year tenure at Stanford where he served as Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Relations. He significantly modernized revenue-generating capabilities at Stanford and worked extensively with the Cardinal's football program. He oversaw the operations and business aspects of Stanford's participation in three Rose Bowl games, the Fiesta Bowl, and the Orange Bowl. Blue’s external relations group leveraged successful team performance to drive record ticket sales and revenue results through innovative pricing and sales strategies. Football ticket sales revenue doubled during Blue's tenure at Stanford.
As one of the youngest athletics director’s in Division I, Blue is mentored by an experienced network of colleagues. Upon his hiring at UC Davis, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby offered the following assessment: "Dr. Blue has been very effective in his various roles at Stanford and I have no doubt that he will embrace this new opportunity and bring focused thinking, amazing energy and remarkable innovation to his new duties," he said. "Kevin is a valued and trusted colleague who has a passion for excellence that is present in all that he does."
Bowlsby’s thoughts are echoed by Bernard Muir, the Jaquish and Kenninger Director of Athletics at Stanford.
"Kevin has quickly become a rising star within intercollegiate athletics and various sports business circles," said Muir. "He is innovative, adaptable and a great listener with the ability to set a vision and execute at the highest levels while keeping his primary interest in providing an enriching educational environment for the student-athletes in which he serves."
Blue was a team captain and Academic All-American golfer at Stanford, earned his bachelor's degree from the university before receiving his Ph.D. in sports psychology from Michigan State. He also studied at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Besides athletics administration, his diverse background also includes serving as an adjunct professor teaching business strategy and sports psychology courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels.