Michael Kelly was named vice president of athletics by University of South Florida System President Judy Genshaft on June 26, 2018, returning him to the Bay area where he had previously served as an associate athletic director for USF and led efforts around a Super Bowl, College Football National Championship and NCAA Men’s Final Four played in Tampa Bay.
Introduced to Bulls Nation on June 29, 2018, Kelly conveyed his vision of “building USF Athletics tradition one champion at a time,” while emphasizing “our youth is an absolute strength” in embracing an athletic program founded in 1965. Kelly’s vision includes building champions in competition, the classroom, the community and in life with a guiding principle of creating an exceptional student-athlete experience in which USF’s nearly 450 student-athletes may thrive.
Returning to the Bay Area with strong connections and familiarity, Kelly laid out his plan to engage the community and build Bulls Nation through exceptional customer service and ensuring rewarding and memorable experiences.
“I just want to say to the residents of Tampa Bay and Bulls fans everywhere that USF is your college team,” Kelly said upon his introduction. “I don’t care where you went, I don’t care who you root for on the professional levels. The USF Bulls are your team.”
Kelly came to USF after serving as the chief operating officer for the College Football Playoff (2012-18) and playing an instrumental role in launching the highly successful playoff. He previously served as associate athletic director for external affairs at USF under former director of athletics and Tampa Bay legend Lee Roy Selmon. Kelly returns to the university with nearly 25 years of experience in college and professional athletics.
“Michael Kelly is a proven leader with a wealth of experience across the national collegiate athletic landscape, as well as within Tampa Bay,” Genshaft said. “He has a track record of promoting competitive excellence, building strong community relationships, developing marketing campaigns, reaching fundraising goals and supporting academic achievement. His future-focused vision and high moral character will ensure that our already strong USF Athletics program reaches new heights. I look forward to all that USF and the Tampa Bay community will achieve under Michael’s leadership.”
Kelly became the COO of the College Football Playoff (CFP) in 2012 and in that role directed the organization’s day-to-day operations and was instrumental in launching the playoff. In his role at the CFP, Kelly managed the site selection process for the CFP National Championship and oversaw all aspects of the National Championship Game and associated ancillary events, including the event hosted by Tampa Bay in 2017. In addition, he served as the primary liaison to ESPN and managed the CFP’s relationship with the “New Year’s Six” bowl games. He also participated in all meetings of the CFP selection committee.
Prior to his stint at the CFP, for six years Kelly served as senior associate commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference, overseeing football, broadcasting and communications. During his time with the ACC, he built strong relationships with coaches, media, television network partners, conference officials and university leaders throughout the country.
Kelly is the only person to ever serve as lead local executive for three different Super Bowls in three different communities, having been president of the Super Bowl host committees in Tampa Bay (Super Bowl XXXV), Jacksonville (Super Bowl XXXIX) and South Florida (Super Bowl XLI). He was also executive director of the 1999 Men’s Basketball Final Four Organizing Committee for the event held at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
Kelly previously worked as USF’s associate athletic director for external affairs, supervising the key areas of development, ticket sales, ticket operations, corporate sponsorships, marketing, broadcasting and licensing from June 2001 to July 2002. He helped USF Football transition to Division I-A and led fundraising efforts for a new athletic center.
“I am truly honored to return to the University of South Florida and Tampa Bay. This is a dream opportunity for me, and I couldn’t be more grateful to President Genshaft and the USF Board of Trustees,” Kelly said. “It’s a very exciting time with the university and the entire region on such strong upward trajectories. I can’t wait to get started with our student-athletes, coaches, staff, Bulls fans, donors and alumni everywhere.”
Kelly also served as director of athletic operations and facilities at Wake Forest University.
“Michael Kelly is the perfect person to take USF Athletics to the next level in every way,” said Bill Sutton, who led USF’s search advisory committee. “During the search process, I’ve been impressed by his knowledge of the university, our communities and his clear desire to be selected for this role. Combined with Michael’s extraordinary experience and the relationships he’s built across the country, he’s exactly who we need to position USF Athletics for future success.”
A founding board member of the Collegiate Event and Facilities Management Association (CEFMA), Kelly currently serves on the President’s Board of Advisors for St. Thomas University (Miami Gardens, FL), the Board of Trustees for St. John’s College High School (Washington, D.C.), the Board of Advisors for the University of North Carolina’s Center for Research in Intercollegiate Athletics and the National Sports Advisory Committee for the American Arbitration Association. He also proudly serves as an officer for the College Football Playoff Foundation and was instrumental in the development of its Extra Yard for Teachers initiative that focuses on elevating the teaching profession by inspiring and empowering quality teachers.
A passionate supporter of the sports administration and event management industries, Kelly has served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Tampa and St. Thomas University, and has lectured at dozens of colleges around the country. In 2006, Kelly was named to the Sports Business Journal’s “Forty Under 40” and was presented with St. Thomas University’s Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Kelly, 47, earned his bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University, graduating Magna Cum Laude, and earned a master’s degree in sports administration from St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens. The Washington, D.C. native began his career in sports selling tickets for the Miami Marlins while attending graduate school.
He and his wife, Lisa, have two daughters, Cara and Seana.