In late June, Dan Gavitt was on an airplane headed to Park City, Utah, to be introduced to the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee as the NCAA’s new vice president for men’s basketball championships.
During the flight, he reflected on another plane ride to Utah he had as a kid headed for Salt Lake City to attend his first Final Four. It was a biggie — the 1979 classic featuring Michigan State’s Magic Johnson and Indiana State’s Larry Bird. The largest television audience to ever watch a championship game tuned in, but Gavitt experienced it first-hand.
“All I could think about on this most recent flight was how things have come full circle,” said Gavitt, who will oversee the Divisions I, II and III Men’s Basketball Championships. “I’ve been to a lot of Final Fours through the years as a coach, administrator and as a fan. It is surreal to think I am involved with helping running this championship now.”
He also thought about his late father, Dave Gavitt, who was a founder and first commissioner of the Big East Conference. Dave Gavitt was a former head basketball coach, an athletics director at Providence and part of the USA Basketball Committee that helped create the 1992 U.S. Men’s Olympic Basketball “Dream Team.” And he chaired the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee in the early 1980s that boldly developed the 64-team bracket that helped mold the tournament into the spectacle that it is today.
Dave Gavitt died last September at age 73. While he was an ever-present influence on his son, it was never expected that Dan would follow in his legendary father’s footsteps.
“My dad never pushed me in any direction,” said Gavitt, who along with his wife, Susan, has two sons, Andrew and Sean, who are 10 and 8. “With that being said, his career and his being so passionate about college basketball and college sports certainly had a profound impact on my love for the same things.
“I want to give back to the game that has been so great to me, my family and my dad’s life. This is more than a job to me. It is like a calling.”
Gavitt, who arrived in Indianapolis in mid-August, brings a diverse background to his new position.
In the early to mid-1990s, he was an assistant coach at Providence, where he also earned a master’s degree in business administration in 1995. Gavitt’s next career move was to start Craigville Sports Associates, a marketing and public relations firm for which he served as president.
“I got some good event experience and that has helped me along the way,” said Gavitt, who earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Dartmouth in 1988. “But I missed being on a college campus, and I missed working with student-athletes and coaches.”
His next career opportunity came in 1999 when he became the AD at then-Division II Bryant. Gavitt oversaw 22 varsity sports — including the seven he launched during his tenure there — as well as the club, intramurals and fitness programs. He also spearheaded a number of facility construction and renovation projects.
Bryant was the national runner-up in men’s basketball in 2005, which Gavitt called one of the highlights in his professional career.
“My dad would come to all kinds of games, not just basketball, when I was at Bryant,” Gavitt said. “We shared that professional background, and it was really neat.”
After six years at Bryant, Gavitt moved to the Big East in 2005, where he was the associate commissioner for men’s basketball. He served as the primary basketball administrator for the league and was the principal contact for conference member athletics directors, basketball coaches and game officials. He also helped with television scheduling and assembling the league’s daunting 144-game conference schedule. In addition, he served as the Big East’s liaison to the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee.
Gavitt, who in his new role at the NCAA national office will also oversee the NIT Season Tipoff and the postseason NIT, never had a staff at the Big East. That will change.
He said he and his staff will have a student-athlete-centered focus going forward.
“The goal every year is to make sure the experience for the student-athletes, the coaches and their families is the best it can possibly be at all of our basketball championships,” Gavitt said. “The Men’s Final Four is one of the best events in the country. The challenge is how do you keep it in the same sentence with the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Kentucky Derby and the other signature American icon events? All of these factors attracted me to this job.”