Kevin White Introduced As Duke's Director of Athletics

Kevin White (right) was introduced as Duke\'s seventh Director of Athletics in a Saturday press conference. (LAWSON KURTZ/THE CHRONICLE)

UPDATE: 2:00 p.m. SUNDAY, ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS: We (OK, I) aren't econ majors here, but we'll try to offer our best financial analysis of the Notre Dame and Duke athletic departments that our limited knowledge provides. According to the 2006-2007 Notre Dame annual athletics report, the Fighting Irish have a budget of $44.5 million, slightly less than Duke's operating budget of $47.4 million, as stated in the University's own 2006-2007 annual report.

Most notably, though, was the schools' revenue disparities. Notre Dame, under White's watch, made $16 million in total revenue in the last fiscal year, in part because of the football team's trip to the BCS Fiesta Bowl in 2006. We couldn't find any specific numbers for Duke, but it is widely known that the football team and women's basketball team--both considered "revenue sports"--are anything but, racking up losses for the athletic department. In the new strategic plan section about finances, the author writes, "Our expenses exceed our income, and have for several years." There are a few reasons for these losses (a paltry University subsidy, rising salaries of coaches, competitive market, lack of endowed scholarships, among others), and even if Duke is not in the red, it's certain that the Blue Devils don't come close to making $16 million a year. Notre Dame Football is iconic in the way Duke Basketball is, but football makes more money, and that's another challenge the business-minded White will encounter at Duke. But if David Cutcliffe can turn the Blue Devils into a winning program, the solution might be easier than White could have ever hoped.

UPDATE: 1:30 p.m. SUNDAY, WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: There are enough stories about White's introductory press conference to get you through your bagel and coffee this morning, but one that stood out, ironically, came from a Notre Dame fan website. White took the heat for most of the Fighting Irish football team's transgressions, most notably in the coaching ranks (for the record, a similar story appears in the Chicago Tribune). The firing of Tyrone Willingham after three seasons is still one of the more heated issues in the country, and this site argues that White took the blame even though it probably wasn't his decision.

"At the press conference, he was ashen and epitomized the Procol Harum lyrics about turning “a whiter shade of pale.” I sensed he was miffed not only about being told to get rid of Willingham but then also getting directed to “go get (then Utah head coach) Urban Meyer” without any clear blueprint in place to make it happen. When that plan fell through, White was portrayed on the outside as the bumbling boob who was left with egg on his face after firing Willingham. Like Wadsworth, White’s role often seemed to be that of a bodyguard, taking the bullets when the school was fired at on the outside from every angle."

That particular site sees Duke as a chance to regain some of that trust and power, especially within the football program.

UPDATE: 5:25 p.m. SATURDAY, FREE NIGHTS AND WEEKENDS: Let's hope Kevin White has free nights and weekends in his cell phone plan. Since landing in Durham late Friday night and interviewing with the search committee Saturday morning, White has had a number of phone conversations. He talked to Joanne P. McCallie and David Cutcliffe. He also talked to former Director of Athletics Joe Alleva and even put in a call to Alleva's predecessor, Tom Butters. Alleva had some advice for White when they talked:

"Joe said to me, 'I think it's in pretty good shape, Kevin, but there are some opportunities here,' and I can't agree more," White said.

UPDATE: 4:45 p.m. SATURDAY, THE OUTSIDER: There are a few interesting points about White's new appointment that we'll highlight over the course of the coming days. We'll start with one of the more obvious ones: White is the first of seven Directors of Athletics in Duke history to not have a formal affiliation with the school before leading the department. That's almost shocking, in a way. I asked White and Brodhead today about the challenges of coming to a school without any formal ties, but it's something that White is used to: at his six previous stops, he had no prior connections, either. Brodhead offered a particularly forceful response:

"I believe that if you were to talk to anybody at any of those schools during the time he was there, they would have been quite surprised to learn that he hadn't always been attached to the place, because he is famous for the degree of his commitment and the degree of his passion," Brodhead said.

Of course, White was hired over some candidates with well-worn ties to Duke. Mike Cragg, an associate athletic director and director of the Legacy Fund, and Leo Hart, a former Duke quarterback and successful business executive, both expressed interest in the position. Both are fairly business-oriented, as is White, who taught an MBA class on sports business at Notre Dame's Mendoza School of Business and will consider teaching at Fuqua School of Business, too. For the record, White's job officially begins June 16.

UPDATE: 3:20 p.m. SATURDAY, WHO'S WHO: For those wondering, here's the list of people we spotted this afternoon at the press conference in Yoh, other than Brodhead and White: Mike Krzyzewski, men's basketball head coach; Sean McNally, baseball head coach; John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations; Roy Bostock, chair of the search committee and Yahoo! Inc. chairman of the board; John Mack, Trustee, member of the search committee and CEO of Morgan Stanley; Chris Kennedy, interim athletic director. White was joined by one of his daughters, one of his sons and his wife, Jane. He has five children.

UPDATE: 3:05 p.m. SATURDAY, THROUGH THE LENS: Online photo editor Lawson Kurtz made it out to Yoh to take some photographs of the press conference. You'll see some shots throughout this post now.

UPDATE: 3:00 p.m. SATURDAY, CHRONICLE COVERAGE: The first full story of White's introduction is up on The Chronicle's website. I caught up with Mike Krzyzewski after the press conference, and he said he spoke with Brey yesterday about White.

"[Brey] said, ‘We’re lucky, he’s just a regular guy,’” Krzyzewski said. “He’s not someone you work for, you work with.”

UPDATE: 1:46 p.m. SATURDAY, 3.5-HOUR MEETING: This is White's first trip to Durham in this capacity, but Brodhead and White had a three and a half hour conversation in person on Wednesday morning. White wasn't necessarily an official candidate then, but he was being treated more as a consultant after being approached by Gene Corrigan, the former ACC commissioner.

UPDATE: 1:28 p.m. SATURDAY, "EUPHORIC PLUS PLUS": In his departing conversation with Father Theodore Hesburgh, the iconic leader of Notre Dame, White told him he was headed to Duke. "That's the only place I'd give you a blessing," Hesburgh told White, who met with Mike Krzyzewski this summer and taught Joanne P. McCallie in graduate school. White spoke with former Director of Athletics Joe Alleva this morning and placed a call to fellow former athletic director Tom Butters, too.

UPDATE: 1:23 p.m. SATURDAY, GREAT HISTORY TO GREAT NEW CHAPTER: President Brodhead, in his introduction of Kevin White, said he met with him for three and a half hours this week, and has thoroughly praised White. Here's one choice quote:

"You are an equally great leader of revenue sports and non-revenue sports, men's sports and women's sports, varsity sports and intramural sports. You have been the comprehensive leader of athletics there, but in addition, your teams have completely enviable and admirable records as students as well as athletes.... All these things made you the kind of person we wanted here, and we consider ourselves extraordinarily fortunate to have acquired you."

UPDATE: 1:04 p.m. SATURDAY: We're in the Yoh Football Center, where Kevin White is minutes away from being introduced as Duke's next Director of Athletics. There are two spots on the dais, for White and President Richard Brodhead. Interestingly, there is a comment from men's basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski in the media release about White:

"Kevin White has been a good friend and is one of the most respected people in intercollegiate athletics. He brings a wealth of experience and is someone who people admire in addition to respecting. We are lucky to have him and I look forward to working together with him to make our athletic department the best in the country."

We'll find out more about White and Krzyzewski's relationship. Head football coach David Cutcliffe also has known White for "quite some time now" and White's son, Michael, was a captain at Ole Miss when Cutcliffe was the head coach for the Rebels.

John Swofford, the ACC commissioner, also had lauding praise for White.

"This hire is not just a home run, but a grand slam home run for Duke. Kevin is one of the very best athletic directors in the country and brings a wealth of experience to the job. He is a great friend and is a welcome addition to the ACC. Congratulations to President Brodhead on a very successful search."

More later from Yoh.

UPDATE, 10:05 a.m. SATURDAY: Duke has announced it will be holding a press conference today at 1 p.m. in Yoh Football Center to make a special announcement regarding its Department of Athletics. We'll be there on the scene and let you know as soon as White's hiring becomes official.

11:30 p.m. FRIDAY:The News & Observer is reporting late Friday night that Duke is expected to hire Notre Dame's athletic director, Kevin White. If the report is accurate, White will replace Joe Alleva, who took the same position at LSU in April. Duke officials could not be reached for comment Friday night, nor could White.

Before he was Notre Dame's athletic director, White, 57, held the same position at Arizona State, Tulane, Maine and Loras College. He received his undergraduate degree from Central Michigan and his Ph.D. in education from Southern Illinois.

At Notre Dame, he hired Charlie Weis, but also hired George O'Leary, who was forced to resign because of inaccuracies on his resume, and Tyrone Willingham, who was fired after three seasons at the helm. The Fighting Irish finished 3-9 last year, beating Duke Nov. 17. In White's time at Notre Dame, the football team compiled a 57-40 record and did not won a bowl game.

In what seems like curious timing, White and his wife, Jane, were named honorary alumni by Notre Dame Wednesday. Only 37 others in Notre Dame history have been awarded the honor, one of the most prestigious the school gives for "unique contributions that singularly qualify them for special recognition as members of the Notre Dame community and family." They were the first athletic representatives to receive the award since 1997.

"I know of no two individuals who exhibit the great spirit of Notre Dame any more than Kevin and Jane do - they are Notre Damers through and through," said Richard Nussbaum, president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors.

In a Thursday interview with The Chronicle, Richard Riddell, the search committee's vice chair, pinpointed two criteria that seem to describe White perfectly.

  • Communication: White hosted a weekly, hour-long radio show in Chicago and also had a pre-game segment on Westwood One before Notre Dame football games.
  • Recreational sports: With a Ph.D. in education, White was responsible for a "comprehensive intramural, club sport and campus recreation program, with 95 percent of the student body participating," according to his official biography. He also taught a sports business course at Notre Dame's Mendoza School of Business. The revitalization of Duke's recreational sports was stressed in the school's first athletics strategic plan, approved by the Board of Trustees in May.

White's contract at Notre Dame was extended through 2012 in Dec. 2002. He initially agreed to a five-year contract, was extended five years soon after, and was granted the two-year extension late

In 2006-07, he was president of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and was the 2005-06 president of the Division I-A Athletic Directors Association. He is also part of the steering committee for Chicago's quest to host the 2016 Olympics.

On Thursday, Riddell told The Chronicle that the committee would likely present President Richard Brodhead with a list of candidates sometime in June and the president would proceed from there. White, the athletic director at Notre Dame since 2000, has no connection to Duke, a trait that Riddell also talked about.

"You’d certainly want someone who appreciates the values of Duke, this blend of academics and athletics," he said. "Certainly people that know Duke will have had the chance to experience that first hand. People from outside could also experience it from other institutions. Duke is pretty special, but there are a few institutions with some similarities: Stanford, Northwestern, Notre Dame. It’s possible that someone at another institution, while maybe not working at Duke, would readily understand what we’re talking about."

When White was introduced at Notre Dame in March 2000, he discussed his overarching idea of an athletic department.

"My vision is fairly simple," White said. "It's all about the student-athlete. And if we do a good job of taking care of the interests and needs of the student-athlete, everything else will take care of itself."

Keep checking The Chronicle and The Chronicle's Sports Blog for more updates and confirmations about this potential hiring.


--by Ben Cohen


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