As the search committee’s members listened to advice about who would make the ideal athletic director for Notre Dame, President Edward Malloy said, “one name kept coming up.”
In March 2000 Malloy spoke that name at a press conference in the Main Building when he introduced Arizona State athletic director Kevin White as the 11th athletic director of Notre Dame and the first who will report directly to the president.
White, expected to take office in April, said his goal is to take Notre Dame athletics to the “next level,” which he described as maintaining the high academic success of the University’s student athletes, “and even taking it up a notch,” without settling for second-best in competition.
“We want to create a program where winning a national championship is a realistic expectation across all 26 sports and I really think that’s doable,” he said.
White’s hiring came little more than a month after Malloy announced a restructuring under which the athletic director will report directly to him instead of to the executive vice president. The change, he said, was based on a comprehensive external review of athletic department policies and procedures that was conducted last year during the NCAA’s investigation of rules violations reported by the University.
At the same time the restructuring was announced, Athletic Director Michael Wadsworth, a 1966 Notre Dame graduate, said he planned to step down. He said he thought the timing was right given the restructuring, the conclusion of the NCAA matter, and the five-year plan in the athletic department coming to an end along with the personal five-year commitment he made to the University at his hiring in April 1995.
White, 49, has served on numerous NCAA committees, including the NCAA Council, formerly the association’s highest governing body. He holds a Ph.D. in educational management and has taught classes every semester of his 18-year career as an athletic director, which began at Catholic Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa in 1982. He later headed athletics at the University of Maine (1987-91) and at Tulane University (1991-96), where he rebuilt a program wracked by a point-shaving scandal in the1980s involving men’s basketball.
At Arizona State, where he was hired in 1996, the Sun Devils rose from No. 23 to No. 12 in the Sears Director’s Cup ranking of overall athletic success. They are on track for a top 10 ranking this year. In 1998-99 the university placed three teams in the top five in the country, and 233 Arizona State student-athletes earned a 3.0 or higher grade-point average.
In introducing White, Malloy emphasized not only his record of accomplishment but his personal affinity for Notre Dame. Raised on Long Island in an Irish Catholic family, White earned his bachelor’s degree in 1972 from Saint Joseph’s College in Renssalaer, Indiana, 50 miles south of Gary.
“My dad used to tell his buddies I went to school right next to Notre Dame . . . he was so proud of the fact I was at Saint Joe, the first cousin of Notre Dame.”
White and his wife, Jan, who holds a master’s degree in physical education and coached track and field at Central Michigan (where White earned his master’s in athletics administration), have five children, all of whom have competed athletically. Son Michael, was recruited to play basketball at Notre Dame but instead became a four-year starter at point guard for the University of Mississippi, graduating in 1999.
White also has a long association with Notre Dame officials, including a long-time friendship with former Notre Dame Athletic Director Gene Corrigan.