KENOSHA — Landing back in NCAA Division I at some point has been something that UW-Parkside Director of Athletics Andrew Gavin has known could be a possibility.
But to take his young family anywhere but Kenosha, where he’s led the Rangers’ Athletic Department since August of 2017 would take a special opportunity.
That chance – and that day – has come.
Gavin announced in a message to staff on Thursday (that has since circulated on social media) that he is leaving Parkside to take over as Director of Athletics at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, an NCAA Division I program in Edwardsville, Ill.
Reached by cell phone as Gavin began the nearly five-hour trek back to Kenosha from Edwardsville with his wife, Ashley, and their four young children, he said the new opportunity provides not only a great fit but plenty of exciting challenges.
Gavin will begin his new role on April 17.
“Certainly, it’s been bittersweet and a lot of mixed emotions,” he said. “It’s not a decision we made lightly, both from a career perspective or a family perspective. Parkside has been really good to me over the last five-and-a-half years, and Kenosha and Racine have been really good to my family.
“It was going to take a special opportunity. I did spend seven years of my career in Division I, a big chunk of that was at UW-Green Bay, and those were pretty transformative years for me in terms of my leadership. Certainly, I’ve had that competitive itch to eventually pursue an athletic director position. So that’s part of (my decision).”
It was not the only part, Gavin said, as the move comes with a huge life change for his entire family.
“It needed to be more than that to give up what we have in Parkside and the community here,” he said. “I just felt like it was a really good fit for what SIUE was looking for in their next (athletic director) and what I could bring to their athletic department.”
Chancellors reflect on Gavin’s impact
Both Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford and SIUE Chancellor James Minor reacted to the news.
“On behalf of UW-Parkside, we appreciate his leadership of Parkside athletics since 2017,” Ford said on the school’s Facebook page. “… (Gavin) always placed student-athletes at the center of decision making. His impact positions Parkside Athletics for continued success. We wish Andrew and his amazing family a successful transition.”
In a press release issued Friday morning and posted on the SIUE website, Minor said he’s excited to bring Gavin into the fold.
“Andrew brings a wealth of diverse experiences that will help SIUE realize its ambition to graduate champions,” Minor said. “It is clear that he has the capacity to improve the competitiveness of our athletics program, while supporting SIUE coaches and staff, and most importantly, our student-athletes.
“We look forward to working with Andrew to continue the tradition of academic success, while establishing new expectations for comprehensive excellence across Cougar Athletics.”
Gavin said there are many familiarities between Parkside and his new landing spot.
At Parkside, he led 15 Division II varsity programs, while SIUE has 14 that currently compete at the Division I level. Both also boast strong communities right around each campus, but also reach outside those boundaries, Gavin said.
SIUE ventured into Division I a little more than 10 years ago, Gavin said, so with that, it’s still really in the developing and building stages of what it could be.
“It’s still an organization and a department that’s on an upward trajectory,” he said. “That’s one of the things that excited me about it. I think SIUE’s best days are ahead of it, especially from an athletics’ perspective as the transition into Division I continues. It’s not an extremely recent transition, but kind of still building that Division I athletics department. That brand is building.”
During his tenure, Gavin helped guide a significant transformation in Parkside’s athletic and recreation facilities through his RangerVision2020 program that launched in March 2020.
Through that campaign, Parkside created two brand new facilities in the Rick Kilps Center and the Mark Olsen Indoor Golf Center, along with a major renovation in the DeSimone Gymnasium.
Gavin also helped with the transition into the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, hired 30 new employees, including three head coaches, launched the Parkside Athletics Corporate Partners Program and the Ranger Impact Fund, and negotiated a new sports medicine partnership with Aurora Sports Health.
The work to transform the facilities, but also the staff – including coaches, but also support personnel – are two of the things that stand out for Gavin as he prepares to depart.
“I feel like we have established a different value on what we do at Parkside in athletics, what being the only Division II (school) in Wisconsin means,” Gavin said. “I think there’s a different value, both on campus and in the community, about our product. I’m extremely proud of that.
“The other thing is our team. We have some great people on our staff that pre-date my time at Parkside, but we’ve also been able to bring a lot of great people to Parkside. I’m proud of the work that they’ve done and a lot of them who will be there as I depart and will continue to sustain some really good work.”
In his letter to the staff, Gavin thanked many who have helped him along the way.
“In my time at Parkside, I have gotten far too much credit for our success,” he wrote. “Our staff here in athletics has been incredible. The leadership, starting with Chancellor Ford, the Chancellor’s Cabinet, and the faculty and staff, have been collaborative partners and very supportive of our vision. Our alumni and the community have been receptive and generous with their partnerships and support. Parkside Athletics has benefitted greatly and produced amazing outcomes because of this team effort, which will continue to benefit the university under the new leadership.”
Prior to coming to Parkside, Gavin worked in the athletics departments at Centre College, UW-Green Bay, the University of Central Florida and the University of South Carolina Aiken.
When asked if he would switch his baseball fandom to the St. Louis Cardinals – of course, hated by many around these parts – Gavin joked that he may just have to because of his family’s new surroundings.
Following the National League’s Central Division is nothing new for the longtime Midwesterner.
“I’m smart enough to root for the teams I need to root for in the community where I’m at,” he said with a laugh. “I have a lot of teams I’ll root for the right reasons. I’m definitely still in NL Central country. I grew up near Cincinnati, so I grew up going to Reds games. The NL Central is definitely a familiar league and a familiar division.”
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