November 9, 2009
New FGCU AD lays out groundwork
Kavanagh hires personnel to make program
By Craig Handel
Ken Kavanagh took over as Florida Gulf Coast's athletic director
nearly five months ago and he's wasted little time influencing the
The athletic department has taken over the operations and ticket
sales for Alico Arena from the auxiliary services department and
hired a consultant to help increase ticket sales and donations.
In the next few days, the former Bradley athletic director also
plans to hire a director of corporate sales and marketing.
Kavanagh wanted to make these changes to increase revenue, streamline
job duties and give associate AD/advancement Butch Perchan more
time to spend with major donors.
"The feeling is from the revenue side of it, everyone is under
one umbrella," Kavanagh said.
"This will help us continue relations with current fans and
develop new strategies to build up new fan support."
The new director of sales and marketing will be paid $45,000 and
replace Jake Perkins. His position will include more sales than
Perkins' did, Kavanagh said.
For $1,500, Kavanagh brought in Matt DiFebo, who started a new
strategic consulting firm that will focus on collegiate athletic
ticket sales and revenue generation.
Before that he was associate AD for external services at Central
Florida, where he helped football season-ticket sales increase by
more than 14,000. His ticket-sales model produced nearly $3 million
in additional donations to the UCF Athletic Association, while he
also led efforts to increase basketball and baseball revenues.
Previously, DiFebo worked for the Seattle SuperSonics and Tampa
"He's an innovator," said Joe Hornstein, UCF's associate
director of athletics. "We were moving into a new era and he
crafted a plan. He wasn't just a ticket puncher. There was also
a donor element, and there was a more personal relationship with
After hearing DiFebo speak at an NCAA convention this summer in
Orlando, Kavanagh asked him to visit Fort Myers.
DiFebo's philosophy is that building a solid foundation in ticket
sales can lead to group sales, merchandising and donations. He encourages
athletic departments to hire full-time people with a background
in sales or business rather than part-timers or volunteers. Those
people then communicate regularly with team backers.
"If you provide a personal connection, fans feel like they're
connected to the program," DiFebo said. "If you get good
feedback, we can get good information and implement policies or
changes in the best interest of fans and the team.
"By virtue of doing that, we build strong relationships with
our fan base and have higher retention rates. That translates into
more people in the stadiums and arenas."
The athletic department oversaw the ticket office at every school
Kavanaugh had worked at before FGCU; and with DiFebo's input, they
encouraged FGCU president Wilson Bradshaw to go that route.
"We will call and reach out to people who have come into our
arena," Kavanagh said. "With first-time season ticket
holders, we want to spend a great period of time getting to know
them. It's our way of planting some seeds and watering the flowers."
In his visit to FGCU, DiFebo was impressed with the school's foundation
and athletic success. He also saw similarities with UCF.
"They are both young programs hoping to grow," he said.
"UCF did it in a fast rate. FGCU has a revenue-minded AD in
Ken Kavanagh. He has a vision to grow FGCU into a top-notch program.
"I also saw the potential in seasonal fans. While they're
living down here, often times they look to support local schools
and ways to get involved, not just in ticket sales but in fundraising.
They have a level of disposable income."
Part of FGCU's theme this year - 'Root For The Home Team' - is
based on reaching seasonal visitors.
"We understand fans have other teams they're cheering for,"
Kavanagh said. "I saw that in Peoria. Some of our good fans
would wear orange when we played Illinois. We understand that.
"Here, we hope they're wearing the green and blue most of
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