Photo of Michael Kelly, Vice President For Athletics/Director of Athletics, University of South Florida

Michael Kelly, Vice President For Athletics/Director of Athletics, University of South Florida

October 30, 2023

Michael Kelly began his tenure as USF Vice President for Athletics on August 6, 2018, returning him to the Bay area where he previously served as an associate athletic director for USF and led efforts around a Super Bowl, the College Football Playoff National Championship and the NCAA Men’s Final Four in Tampa Bay.

Upon his introduction, Kelly conveyed his vision of "building USF Athletics tradition one champion at a time," while emphasizing that "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 can thrive. Kelly laid out his plan to engage the community and build Bulls Nation through exceptional customer service and ensuring rewarding and memorable experiences. He has led the Bulls to numerous record-breaking achievements in fundraising, in the classroom and competition during his tenure.
Michael Kelly

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. In 2020, he also began a four-year term on the NCAA Division I Council and began serving as Vice Chair of the NCAA Championship Oversight Committee which oversees all national championships except for Men’s and Women’s Basketball. He also serves on the NCAA’s Working Group for Name, Image and Likeness. Kelly also serves as a mentor for the National Coalition for Minority Football Coaches.

The Bulls have claimed 14 conference championships under Kelly's watch, including bringing home seven trophies in 2021, the program's most since 1996. Nine programs reached national postseason competition in 2021, 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. Under Kelly, seven programs have gained a top 25 national ranking. The men's basketball program won a school record 24 games, completing the top turnaround in the NCAA with 14 more victories than the previous year while capturing the College Basketball Invitational title.

Kelly has overseen a $3 million renovation of the football locker room in the Lee Roy Selmon Athletics Center in 2021 and the construction of a $22 million Indoor Performance Facility that opened in the fall of 2022. He also co-chairs the university committee that is developing plans for an on-campus football stadium projected to open in 2026 and unveiled a bold Athletics Masters Facility Plan in the Summer of 2022 while highlighted facility enhancements for all sports in the next several years.

During Kelly's tenure, USF Athletics has secured over $60 million in gifts and commitments – a record amount for the program within a four-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 and a record of $22 million raised in 2021-22. Kelly also oversaw the creation of the Stampede for Women, a fundraising initiative aimed at raising the level of support and empowerment of female student-athletes.

In 2021, Kelly announced the addition of women's lacrosse and beach volleyball to Bulls athletics, bringing the number of varsity programs to 21.

Kelly oversaw the launch, and then expansion, of just the second digital radio network in college sports as USF partnered with local sports giant WDAE and iHeart Radio to create Bulls Unlimited and Bulls Unlimited 2 stations carrying USF Athletics 24 hours a day and for WDAE to serve as the flagship station of USF Football. Kelly also initiated USF's membership in the Green Sports Alliance (GSA) and the implementation of green initiatives throughout the department and its athletic facilities and returned induction to the USF Athletic Hall of Fame, the first since 2013, while also reigniting the Bulls Fest annual donor auction. Following through on connecting with the community, USF started an annual Football Kickoff Luncheon in downtown Tampa. Kelly became an active and engaged 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.

USF Athletics also refocused and codified its branding, narrowing logo and color usage and introducing elements that identify with the Bay area community.

Kelly continues to push USF Athletics forward, initiating construction of a $2 million broadcast facility in the Muma Center, which is the hub of USF’s live streaming of all home sports events in conjunction with The American’s 12-year media rights partnership with ESPN that began in 2020. Kelly also is giving USF student-athletes the tools and assets to position themselves for future NIL revenues by expanding a partnership with INFLCR. Kelly also established the USF Athletics Committee for Inclusive Excellence, a new diversity council within the athletic department. Building on his former role as an officer for the College Football Playoff Foundation, Kelly has fostered collaboration between USF Athletics and the USF College of Education which has created programs related to the annual Extra Yard for Teachers initiative and Go Teach — a program focused on providing athletic and academic departments the platform and tools to assist in the recruitment of qualified student-athletes into the teaching profession.

In the classroom, USF student-athletes have continued a record 16 straight semesters and seven academic years with over a 3.0 cumulative grade-point average. The Bulls have logged over an 82 percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR) for eight 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 2020. A record 288 Bulls earned Athletics Honor Roll recognition in the spring of 2020, 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.

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 before the pandemic. Michael Kelly

In 2018, USF football became the fastest FBS team in the state of Florida to reach 150 program wins on the way to matching the school's best-ever start at 7-0. USF posted its best season home attendance average in six seasons (38,517), which stood as the second-best mark among American Athletic Conference teams. USF student attendance at football games rose 39 percent from the 2017 season to an average of 7,797 students per game in 2018. The rise in student attendance at football games was part of an overall rise in student attendance across all of USF's fall sports.

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 returned to the university with nearly 25 years of experience in college and professional athletics.

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.

Before 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 the 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 now known as the Lee Roy Selmon Athletic Center. Kelly also served as director of athletic operations and facilities at Wake Forest University from 1995-1998 when the Deacons won back-to-back ACC championships in men’s basketball.

Kelly 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., area native began his career in sports as an intern for the Florida Marlins during their inaugural season while attending graduate school. A founding board member of the Collegiate Event and Facilities Management Association (CEFMA), Kelly currently serves on the Board of Trustees for St. John’s College High School in Washington, DC, the President’s Board of Advisors at St. Thomas University, the Board of Directors/Executive Committee for the Tampa Bay Sports Commission and on the Executive Committee of the Gasparilla Bowl.

He and his wife, Lisa, have two daughters, Cara and Seana. Lisa is an instructor at the USF College of Education. Cara is attending the University of Miami and plays in the marching band and Seana is attending the University of Alabama.