(VIA USF ATHLETICS COMMUNICATIONS)
TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 5, 2021) –The University of South Florida has reached a multiyear contract extension with Vice President of Athletics Michael Kelly, USF President Rhea Law announced today.
Kelly’s current agreement was set to expire in 2023, and the new contract keeps him with USF for an additional five years through June 2028.
“The University of South Florida is fortunate to have Michael Kelly, who continues to prove that he’s the right person to lead USF Athletics into the future,” Law said. “With Michael in place, and our leadership across the university aligned on a shared vision for USF Athletics, we are well positioned to take our programs to the next level. Our support for Athletics not only leads to the success of our student-athletes, it adds value to our on-campus experience, increases engagement opportunities and raises the visibility of the entire institution.”
Kelly has led the Bulls to numerous record-breaking achievements in fundraising, in the classroom and in competition during his tenure that began in August 2018.
“I am very excited for the future of USF Athletics and the opportunity to continue to lead our tremendous student-athletes, coaches and staff into what I believe will be the most successful and transformational period in our 56 years of collegiate athletics at the University of South Florida,” Kelly said. “We have incredible university leadership, a shared vision, a passionate and growing fan base, a thriving community and a very desirable destination for the best student-athletes in the nation. We will continue to add facilities, resources and programing as we build champions in the classroom, community and competition.”
Kelly, the former chief operating officer of the College Football Playoff, has quickly elevated to important leadership positions nationally and within the American Athletic Conference. He was named the chair of the American’s Athletic Directors Executive Committee in June 2020 and also joined the conference’s Racial Equality Action Group. Last July, he began a four-year term on the NCAA Division I Council.
The Bulls have claimed 11 conference championships under Kelly’s watch, including bringing home seven trophies in 2021 alone, the program’s most since 1996. Nine programs reached national postseason competition last year, with 13 Bulls earning all-America honors, 24 earning first team all-conference and three coaches or coaching staffs selected as the best in the conference. In three-and-a-half seasons under Kelly, including a COVID-19-shortened 2019-20 campaign, 21 Bulls have earned all-America honors and seven programs have gained a top 25 national ranking.
In the classroom, USF student-athletes have continued a record 13 straight semesters and six academic years with over a 3.0 cumulative grade-point average. The Bulls have logged over an 84 percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR) for four straight years, including twice registering 85 percent marks under Kelly, which represents the second-highest in program history. A record five programs posted 100 percent GSR scores in the latest data. Last spring, a record 288 Bulls earned Athletics Honor Roll recognition, including 57 in football, and a record 237 were named to the AAC All-Academic teams in 2019-20. The Bulls’ annual overall department GPA for the 2020-21 academic year came in at 3.23, just shy of the department record set the previous year (3.28) and above a 3.20 for the second straight year under Kelly.
USF has also emphasized involvement in the Tampa Bay area community under Kelly, with student-athletes and staff putting in more than 4,300 hours of community service in 2018-19, the last academic year prior to the pandemic.
Among the other accomplishments Kelly has overseen at USF are the recent $3 million renovation of the football locker room in the Lee Roy Selmon Athletics Center and the start of construction on a $22 million Indoor Performance Facility that will be completed in summer 2022. He also co-chairs the university committee that is developing plans for an on-campus football stadium.
Kelly oversaw the launch, and then expansion, of just the second digital radio network in college sports. USF partnered with local sports giant WDAE and iHeart Radio to create Bulls Unlimited and Bulls Unlimited 2 stations, which carry USF Athletics 24 hours a day. The partnership has also led to WDAE serving as the flagship station of USF Football. In addition, Kelly initiated USF’s membership in the Green Sports Alliance (GSA) and the implementation of green initiatives throughout the department and its athletic facilities and saw to the return of the USF Athletic Hall of Fame.
To deepen the connection between USF Athletics and the community, he reignited the Bulls Fest annual donor auction and started an annual Football Kickoff Luncheon in downtown Tampa. Kelly is an active voice on podcasts, launching both Bull Speed Ahead, a regular athletics update, and Kelly’s Conversations, which catches up with USF Athletics greats of the past.
Overall during Kelly’s tenure, USF Athletics has secured nearly $30 million in gifts and commitments -- a record amount for the program within a three-year time frame. He restructured the Bulls Club, Athletics’ fundraising arm, adding additional staff and broadening engagement, resulting in several gifts of $1 million or more. Kelly also oversaw the creation of the Stampede for Women, a fundraising initiative aimed at raising the level of support and empowerment of USF’s female student-athletes.
Kelly continues to help raise the visibility of USF Athletics by overseeing construction of a $2 million broadcast facility in the Muma Center that serves as the hub of USF’s live streaming of sports events in conjunction with the AAC’s 12-year media rights partnership with ESPN that began in 2020. Kelly also gives USF student-athletes the tools and assets to position themselves for future Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) opportunities by maintaining and expanding a partnership with industry leader INFLCR. USF Athletics also refocused and codified its branding, narrowing logo and color usage and introducing graphic elements that identify with the Tampa Bay area community.
In November, Kelly announced the addition of women’s lacrosse to the Bulls’ roster of varsity programs, and with the anticipated addition of another women’s program in the near future, USF’s total sport offerings will grow to 21, including 12 women’s programs.