Kevin Blue, senior associate athletics director for external relations at Stanford, has been named director of athletics at the University of California, Davis, it was announced on Monday (May 16) by Acting Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter.
His appointment culminates a months-long process that included input from university stakeholders and leadership by a recruitment advisory committee, chaired by Faculty Athletics Representative Scott Carrell, and comprising two UC Davis head coaches, the former president of the Associated Students of UC Davis, business leaders, and UC Davis alumni and foundation members. They were assisted by Parker Executive Search.
“I am absolutely delighted that Kevin will lead Intercollegiate Athletics. Kevin is deeply committed to the success of our student-athletes, both in their sport and in achieving their academic goals,” said Hexter. “At Stanford, Kevin demonstrated his ability to develop effective business strategies and initiatives. His passion and leadership will generate renewed enthusiasm from our diverse Aggie community.”
Blue, who will assume his new role on June 21, comes to UC Davis after a seven-year tenure at Stanford where he provided executive oversight of the external business units in athletics, including sales, sponsorships, marketing, communications, business strategy, ticket operations, fan experience and video. He oversaw the university’s relationships with Learfield Sports, Spectra Ticketing, key sponsors and the Pac-12 Network — which he led the launch of at Stanford in 2012. He also served as sports administrator for several varsity programs while at Stanford.
Blue worked extensively with the Cardinal’s football program, overseeing the operations and business aspects of Stanford’s participation in the Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and three Rose Bowls. Under his supervision, the external relations group leveraged successful team performance to drive record ticket sales and revenue results. Football ticket sales revenue doubled during Blue’s tenure at Stanford.
“I’m extraordinarily excited to join the Aggie family,” Blue said. “UC Davis is an esteemed university that has especially flourished in recent years, and I look forward to helping the institution continue to thrive. I’m honored to lead and serve a very special athletics community at UC Davis.”
Blue, who was an 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 includes serving as an adjunct professor teaching business strategy and sports psychology courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Blue’s time in the classroom reflects his focus on education as part of his intercollegiate athletics leadership philosophy.
“The manner by which UC Davis engages in intercollegiate athletics is precisely aligned with my personal values,” he said. “I look forward to reinforcing our commitment to the scholar-athlete ideal as we develop students who achieve successfully in competition, engage in rigorous academic endeavors, and serve as exemplary representatives of UC Davis.”
Carrell said Blue epitomizes the kind of vision and ideals expressed by campus stakeholders during the search process.
“Kevin Blue is an outstanding fit for UC Davis Athletics,” Carrell said. “He truly values the importance of both academic and athletic success of our student-athletes. Additionally, he will resonate well with our entire UC Davis community, including our students, faculty, staff, coaches, fans and alumni.”
Blue led a transformation of Stanford’s sales and marketing capabilities driven by an innovative approach that included a reverse-auction dynamic ticket pricing system and an auto-renew program for football season tickets.
Additionally, Blue initiated online ticket banking, a plan to transition season tickets to an annual membership and has overseen changes to sales operations. He also developed an innovative virtual reality pitch for Heisman Trophy voters.
“We have an extensive history of athletics success at UC Davis upon which to build,” Blue said. “At the same time, we must stimulate continued progress in how we operate in service of our traditions and core values. In today’s environment, the most effective way to honor our traditions and core values is to adopt modernized ways of operating and engaging with students, faculty, supporters, and university community. We will lead athletics in a manner that aligns with the progressive and innovative spirit that characterizes UC Davis institutionally.”
As a fundraiser, he established and successfully engaged an advisory committee of accomplished executives from the Silicon Valley technology community. Blue also oversaw the creation and execution of a comprehensive brand management and strategic communications plan for Stanford Athletics, raising the university’s athletics profile and strengthening its brand.
“Athletics is a passionate common interest among people from all parts of our university community, and thus has unique potential as a driver of unity and pride for our institution,” he said. “There are so many people who care deeply about UC Davis Athletics, and I look forward to working with everyone who shares this passion.”
“Kevin has quickly become a rising star within intercollegiate athletics and various sports business circles,” said Bernard Muir, The Jaquish and Kenninger Director of Athletics at Stanford. “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.”
Muir’s thoughts were echoed by Bob Bowlsby, Big 12 conference commissioner.
“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.”
Blue was team captain and Academic All-American for the Stanford men’s golf team before earning his bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2005. He went on to earn his Ph.D. in psychosocial aspects of sports (sports psychology) from the highly ranked Graduate School of Education at Michigan State. He later studied at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business (Summer Institute for General Management).
Blue is an avid outdoor athlete, having completed an Ironman distance triathlon in just over 11 hours, and has a personal-best marathon time of 3:04.16. He is also currently three-time defending Stanford Golf Club champion.
Blue’s base compensation will be $245,000 with incentives up to $30,000 per year for academic, fundraising and athletics excellence.
Blue will oversee UC Davis' 23-sport athletics program that competes at the NCAA Division I level and holds primary membership in the Big West Conference while also competing as associate members in the Big Sky Conference, Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, America East Conference and Western Water Polo Association. More than 600 student-athletes compete for the Aggies. UC Davis has posted the highest NCAA Graduation Success Rate (88 percent) in the Big West the last four years and currently has seven teams that own the top Academic Progress Rates in their respective conferences.