This story originally appeared in the February 13, 2020 issue of The Smart Reader
Andrew Gavin has served as the Director of Athletics at UW-Parkside since August 2017. In his role, Gavin leads the Rangers’ athletics department and its 15 varsity sport programs. As a member of the Chancellor’s Cabinet, Gavin also oversees intramurals and recreation and the operations of the Sports & Activity Center and other athletics facilities. A native of Madison, Indiana, Gavin and his wife Ashley live in downtown Kenosha and are the proud parents of their daughter Peyton and son Wyatt. He recently delivered this exclusive Q&A to The Smart Reader.
Tune in to Happenings Q&A on Wednesday, February 19th at 2pm when Gavin joins the conversation on AM1050 WLIP and streaming live at www.wlip.com.
Can you tell us what you do as the Director of Athletics at UW- Parkside? One of the reasons I enjoy working in college athletics, and specifically in the role as a Director of Athletics, is that each day can be vastly different. Focus in the department or across campus. Meet with internal staff or external people in the community. Focus on recruits, or current student-athletes, or alumni. Indoor sports or outdoor sports. Gameday vs. non-gameday. All of that to say, it is hard to answer that question.
In broad terms, I oversee an NCAA Division II athletics department with 15 different college programs, approximately 250 student-athletes, and a talented staff of more than 40 people. I am a member of Chancellor Debbie Ford’s Cabinet, which also affords me the opportunity to be involved in University administration.
When did you begin at Parkside? I started in my role on August 1, 2017, so I am in my third academic year serving the University.
Can you tell us your sports partnership with HARIBO? In some respects, the partnership began on my job interview. In the summer of 2017, when I was in Kenosha interviewing for my position, Chancellor Ford and I were driving down Highway 50 discussing all of the economic development in the community. It had been just a few months since HARIBO announced plans to build in Pleasant Prairie, so we started talking about the prospects for a partnership.
Fast forward nearly two years later, we were able to meet with and start building a relationship with Wes Saber and the excellent team at HARIBO of America. Our conversations developed and we started a meaningful partnership with HARIBO this fall. The creation of HARIBO Court is the most visible aspect of the relationship and most impactful to athletics, but we’re excited about the comprehensive and long-lasting impact of the partnership across the University.
Having the HARIBO logo on our court has been a beautiful addition to De Simone Gymnasium, and we’ve enjoyed introducing the product samples around campus and the community.
My kids think I go to work and meet with actual gummy bears, just sitting around a conference room table with the different colors. I’m a candy lover myself, so safe to say the whole partnership is a big hit in the Gavin Family.
Tell our readers about the KABA YLink award you received. I was honored to be nominated by both Chancellor Ford and our Deputy AD Chris Barker, and it was quite humbling to be named one of the Future 5 award winners in 2019. I have a lot of respect for the Kenosha Area Business Alliance and YLink and all of the work they do for our community. Of course, the role they play in economic development is critical, but they do awesome work with leadership development, networking and community programming, and recognizing individuals and businesses in Kenosha.
As I referenced in my remarks at the Future 5 event, as a former communications professionals that focused for years on promoting others, it is still uncomfortable for me to be the one getting interviewed, giving speeches, or receiving honors. However, at the same time, I understand my responsibility and embrace the opportunity to thank our staff, highlight some of the great things happening at UW-Parkside and engage with the community. The Future 5 event was an awesome opportunity to accomplish those goals.
Who do you look up to professionally? I look up to a lot of people, and I have tried to take different things as motivation or philosophy from those I have been fortunate to interact with, work alongside, and/or observe. If I had to narrow it down, though, I would say my parents. They were both educators, and their work ethics and commitment level to their profession were prime examples of actions speaking louder than words. It wasn’t until I was years into my career that I realized how much they had influenced me professionally.
Who is your favorite athlete of all time? My favorite athletes of all-time are Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. They were both at the height of their dominance as I was growing up and I knew we were watching historical greatness unfold in our generation. While I can’t relate to their athleticism or talent, I think I have always been drawn to and impressed by their work ethic, drive, and commitment level. I think those two athletes have lived up to expectations and performed under pressure at a level at least in my lifetime that has been unmatched.
How you got interested in athletics? Athletics has always been a significant part of my life. Like many young kids, I was a huge fan of all things sports during my childhood, including playing sports and watching sports. However, I took it a step further than most with my interest in the numbers and business of sports. In some respects, I was more fascinated with the statistics, the salary cap, trade deadlines, and the media than the games themselves. As a young kid, I wanted to be a general manager or a sports agent. Ultimately, I think it was predictor for my career in sports which has been heavily focused on the PR/marketing, business, and leadership aspects.
I decided to play Division III basketball at Centre College and pursue degrees in economics and government. For most of my time in college, my professional goals were more in line with the business world or possibly law school. Prior to my senior year, I decided to revisit that childhood dream of working in sports, so as graduation was approaching, I applied for nearly 75 low-paying jobs or internships all over the country. I was striking out everywhere before finally landing my first job at a Division II school in South Carolina that summer after graduation. Once I got my foot in the door, hard work really took over, and I have since been blessed with some great opportunities in the industry.
How does it feel to be named to the 2020 Milwaukee Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list? I was shocked when I was notified that I would be receiving this honor. I did not know I was nominated, and the fact that it is representative of the entire Milwaukee region is amazing. Again, I look at it as an opportunity to spotlight and celebrate Parkside Athletics, our University, and our community much more than as an opportunity for individual recognition.
What do you love about Parkside? I love a lot of things about Parkside, and I specifically love a lot of things about working at Parkside in 2020. I really love working under Chancellor Ford’s leadership, which to me means working towards a bold and impactful vision with positivity, intentionality, and optimism. Parkside is an asset to our community and our region in so many ways. From the people dreaming of obtaining a college education to the businesses looking for talent to a community seeking higher education partnerships, we have a University that is responsive to those needs. One of my mentors says to constantly be striving to become a better version of yourself, and Parkside is accomplishing that goal across campus. I love that at Parkside, intercollegiate athletics is valued as a key component of that growth and success.
What are some of your goals in the near future for Parkside Athletics? Our simple goals are to recruit talented, high-character young people to our University and position those student-athletes to be successful in and out of competition. We are focused on initiatives that will accomplish those goals, while being a key campus and community partner.
More specifically in the near future, that means we are focused on generating more resources, successfully completing significant athletics facility projects, increasing our engagement with our alumni base and community, and enhancing our student-athlete experience.
What is your favorite streaming service, or favorite way to watch TV? Good old-fashioned cable; My wife wants me to shut down cable but I haven’t been able to pull the plug.
What did you want to be when you grew up? A professional sports team general manager or sports agent
Who is your favorite musician? Johnny Cash
If you could be a superhero, which one would you be and why? Superman… Obviously fighting crime and helping people are great attributes of Superman, but honestly it is probably more just the chance to fly!
What local restaurant always gives you a great meal? Waterfront Warehouse and Slip 56, proud members of our Parkside Athletics Corporate Partners Program
Which domestic chore do you do better than anyone else in the home? Iron
What is your favorite TV show? Chicago PD
What is your favorite movie? The Shawshank Redemption
Where is your favorite vacation spot? The Villages, Florida at my parents’ house
What was the last gift you gave someone? Three Parkside Rangers teddy bears for my children
What is your favorite joke? Polar bear walks into a bar. The bartender says, “What are you having?” Polar Bear says, “I’ll have a ………………………………………..a beer” Bartender says, “What’s with the big PAWS!”
What is your favorite sports team? The Parkside Rangers, of course!
For more on the UW-Parkside athletics department, click here.
Interview by Donny Stancato
Edited by Jason Hedman