Illinois State University President Larry Dietz announced the appointment of Kyle Brennan as the Redbirds’ Director of Athletics Wednesday, December 23. Brennan, who previously served as Utah’s chief operating officer and deputy athletics director for internal operations, will officially start his position at ISU on January 15.
Brennan will be Illinois State’s 12th Director of Athletics in the NCAA Division I era. He has more than 16 years of combined University and athletic department experience at Northern Illinois, TCU, Ball State and Utah.
“I know I speak for the entire University community in welcoming Kyle to the Redbird family,” Dietz said. “Kyle’s skills and leadership experiences make him an excellent fit for Illinois State and his terrific attitude perfectly complements a diverse and well-rounded background. I also want to offer special thanks to our Director of Athletics search committee and to current AD Larry Lyons for delaying his retirement to accommodate a smooth transition.”
Brennan comes to Illinois State with a management background in the areas of compliance, facilities, equipment, events, finance, human resources and academic support. At Utah, he’s also directly supervised the football, men’s basketball, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, golf and men’s and women’s tennis teams. Before becoming the COO in August of 2018, he also oversaw the external side of Utah athletics, including its partnership with Learfield IMG College.
“I am grateful for this incredible opportunity, and for the confidence that President Dietz and the committee have shown in me to lead the Illinois State Athletics Department,” Brennan said. “Illinois State is an institution of excellence with a tremendous leader in Dr. Dietz. This is a special place that has achieved great success academically and athletically, and it is my charge to build on that success and help our department ascend to greater heights. We want to win, and it is a priority of mine that we generate enthusiasm and energy in our department to embrace that challenge. Our student-athletes deserve that from us, and our fans expect us to compete for Missouri Valley championships and national exposure. This is an exciting opportunity for my family and me, and I cannot wait to get to work with the incredible team in the Illinois State Athletics Department and the University.”
In 2017, Brennan was responsible for securing a $15.6 million gift to start the varsity men’s lacrosse program at Utah, representing the largest donation in department history at the time. He also negotiated new multimedia rights and department-wide apparel contracts, which exceeded prior agreements by $20 million. In his four years supervising external relations, the Crimson Club Annual Fund revenue reached historic highs.
As the chief administrator over new facility projects, Brennan chaired Utah’s five-year strategic planning committee and played a key supervisory role in the fundraising and construction of the Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center (opened in August of 2013), as well as the Jon M. and Karen Huntsman Basketball Facility (2015) and the outdoor tennis courts. Construction of the Ken Garff Performance Zone at Rice-Eccles Stadium is also set to open in 2021.
A member of the Division 1A Athletic Directors’ Association Fellows Program for future Athletic Directors, Brennan has been mentored by Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith since 2013. He was hired in 2008 as Utah’s assistant athletics director for compliance and was named associate A.D. for compliance in 2009. In 2011, he was promoted to special assistant to the athletics director, and in 2012, he was named senior associate A.D. for administration. He was named the school’s first deputy athletics director in December of 2014.
Prior to joining the staff at Utah, Brennan served as the director of compliance at TCU (2005-06) and Ball State (2006-08). He was an estate planning attorney in Denver, before beginning his work in collegiate athletics as a graduate assistant at Northern Illinois (2004-05).
Brennan graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from Calvin College and earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Denver in 2001. He and his wife Beth have three sons: Patrick, Mac and Murphy.
What they are saying about Kyle Brennan
Mark Harlan, Utah Director of Athletics
“Kyle is a sensational choice to lead the Illinois State Athletics Department and to elevate the program to even greater heights. What is Utah’s loss, is ISU’s tremendous gain as Kyle is a true leader, a man of character and integrity and, perhaps most importantly, someone full of compassion for others. I have absolutely no doubt that Kyle will do an incredible job and the Utah Athletics family will be cheering him on from afar.”
Dr. Chris Hill, Utah AD Emeritus
“I’m thrilled for Kyle and Illinois State University. I think it’s great for everyone involved and feel like it will be a tremendous collaborative effort that will bring success to Illinois State. Kyle is one of the best, if not the very best, administrators I worked with in 31 years. He’s a fabulous person and family man and will be a great leader for ISU Athletics.”
Kyle Wittingham, Utah Head Football Coach
“I think Kyle will be a great fit at Illinois State and he has done an incredible job for us at Utah. I can’t say enough good things about him, and I believe he is a rising star in the profession. We will certainly miss him, and he will do a great job at Illinois State.
John Cunningham, Cincinnati Director of Athletics
“Kyle Brennan is a gifted leader and great person, who is genuine, smart and innovative. I am excited for Kyle and his family. I know he will do an outstanding job for Illinois State and will make a difference in the lives of the student-athletes, coaches and staff.”
Dennis Erickson, Former Utah Offensive Coordinator and Collegiate/NFL Head Coach
“I think this is a great decision by the administration at Illinois State and he deserves the chance to be an athletic director. The thing about Kyle is he’s a people person and gets along with everybody, from coaches to student-athletes to University staff. He’s got that type of personality that everyone likes, but they also respect him and know he comes from a genuine place. You couldn’t find a better guy and he will be really good for Illinois State.”
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