Duke Blue Devils AD Kevin White to step down in August after 13 years

ByDavid Hale ESPN logo
Thursday, February 4, 2021

Just a month after the ACC hired a new commissioner, its longest-serving athletic director is also retiring.

Duke AD Kevin White announced he would step down in August after leading the Blue Devils' athletics since 2008, and university president Vincent Price said the school would soon begin a national search for White's replacement.

"This unequivocally represents the most difficult professional decision that I have ever made," White said in a release from the school. "As I look forward to completing my 47th year in higher education, including teaching, coaching, and administration, it is simply the right time to step aside and provide a distinct opportunity for both new and different voices, and a more contemporary vision."

White will continue to teach a course on sports business at the university, he said.

White took over Duke's athletics department in 2008 after serving in the same role at Notre Dame. Jack Swarbrick, who took over as the athletic director for the Irish, is now the ACC's longest serving AD, though Notre Dame did not officially join the ACC in any capacity until 2013 and still does not participate as a full-time football member. North Carolina's Bubba Cunningham is the longest-tenured AD at a full-time ACC school. He was hired in 2011.

During White's tenure at Duke, the Blue Devils captured eight NCAA championships, including the 2010 and 2015 men's basketball titles. The Blue Devils' men's basketball program, which finished the 2006-07 season unranked, landed in the top 10 in 10 of White's 13 years at Duke.

"I have absolutely loved working with Kevin the past 13 years," Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "He's made Duke basketball and me better. He's made Duke athletics and Duke University better. He's made all of intercollegiate athletics better for 47 years. No one in college athletics has mentored as many people as Kevin White. Simply put, he is the very best in the business. While I will miss working day-to-day with Kevin immensely, my family and I are so thankful for the amazing friendship and strong partnership we've enjoyed with both Kevin and [his wife] Jane."

Duke's women's tennis (2009), men's lacrosse (2010, 2013 and 2014) and women's golf (2014 and 2019) teams also won championships. White also hired Olympic champion Kara Lawson as the women's basketball head coach in July.

"Kevin White has been, throughout his extraordinary career, a dynamic and impactful leader in intercollegiate athletics and higher education," Price said. "His magnificent accomplishments as vice president and director of athletics at Duke built upon an already-secure legacy as a luminary in the world of sport. Kevin has been a treasured member of our senior leadership team, remarkable for his unwavering commitment to our scholar-athletes and to the collaborative pursuit of excellence on and off the field of competition."

White also oversaw a resurgence of the school's football program under head coach David Cutcliffe, who also began in 2008. Duke has made six bowl games since 2012 and made the ACC championship game in 2013 after failing to finish with a winning record from 1995 through 2011.

"Kevin White is truly legendary in college athletics. Everything we've accomplished with Duke football over the last 13 years I can attribute to his leadership and support," Cutcliffe said. "His legacy remains in each of us that have had the pleasure to work with, and be mentored by Dr. White."

White's decision follows the announcement last June that longtime ACC commissioner John Swofford would be retiring. The ACC announced last month that Northwestern athletics director Jim Phillips would take over Swofford's role as commissioner.

"College athletics will miss Kevin White," Swofford said in a statement released Friday. "He has been a North Star his entire career and has proven to be one of the best athletic directors in the country for decades. Kevin is a tremendous friend and colleague who I have relied on for counsel on numerous occasions over the years. Simply put, there is no one I respect more. I congratulate Kevin on a truly extraordinary career. Nora and I wish he and Jane all the best in their next chapter."