I think Kyle is a superstar in the making. He’s done a fantastic job in his role as the deputy A.D. —Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham
SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to naming a new athletics director at the University of Utah, the next guy in line could very well be well, the next guy in line.
Deputy athletics director Kyle Brennan may be the heir apparent. The 43-year-old attorney, who has been with the Utes since 2008, could ascend to the top spot when Dr. Chris Hill retires after 31 years on the job.
A nationwide search is expected to put a new athletics director in place by June.
“I’ve never had a deputy associate A.D. before. Kyle is the only one I’ve had, and he’s done just an excellent job at that position,” Hill said. “Although I want to be respectful to the process, I think it’s also important for people to know that I think he would do an excellent job as the athletic director.”
Brennan has held several titles at Utah, ranging from assistant and later associate athletic director for compliance to special assistant to the athletics director. Then came additional promotions to senior associate athletic director for administration to his current position as deputy.
Prior to his tenure with the Utes, Brennan worked as an estate planning attorney in Denver. He left the profession to work in collegiate athletics and compliance at Northern Illinois, TCU and Ball State.
Brennan’s career has accelerated at Utah. He currently oversees day-to-day operations for football, men’s basketball and both swimming and diving programs. He’s done the same for women’s basketball, golf and tennis in the past.
“I think Kyle is a superstar in the making. He’s done a fantastic job in his role as the deputy A.D.,” said Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham, who added that Brennan is extremely intelligent and very savvy in the world of athletics.
His duties are varied. Brennan manages new facility projects and is overseeing athletic department partnerships with Learfield and Under Armour. Compliance, event management, external relations/development, facilities and human resources are also under his supervision.
Brennan has gained a wealth of experience working with Hill. He oversaw the securing of a $15.6 million gift to add a men’s lacrosse program — the largest donation in department history — and negotiated multimedia and apparel contracts that exceeded previous deals by $20 million. During the past several years, Crimson Club Annual Fund revenue has hit historic levels under his supervision of external relations.
As chairman of a five-year strategic planning committee, Brennan was pivotal in fundraising and construction of the new football and basketball centers, as well as the outdoor tennis courts.
“I’m not on the committee — that’s not for me to say — but I know it would be a seamless transition if Kyle was named the guy,” said Whittingham, who noted that the search will attract a lot of big names. “It’s a fantastic job and so there’s going to be a lot of competition, but Kyle has done just a tremendous job the years he’s been here — started out in compliance and just worked his way up.
“He’s a guy that’s very familiar with everything that goes on here,” Whittingham continued. “I would be elated if it’s Kyle Brennan, you bet.”
As a department administrator, Brennan hired men’s tennis coach Roeland Brateanu and swim coach Joe Dykstra. He also recruited senior woman administrator Nona Richardson to Utah and assisted Hill in the hiring of men’s basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak.
Kyle Brennan, University of Utah deputy athletics director | Steve C. Wilson, University of Utah Athletics
Brennan worked closely with Richardson on the hire of women’s basketball coach Lynne Roberts and co-chaired the group that hired ski coach Kevin Sweeney.
Besides serving on various committees on campus, Brennan has been enrolled in the Division 1A Athletic Directors Association’s Fellows Program since 2013. The program, mentored by Ohio State’s Gene Smith, is for future athletic directors.
“I respect Kyle. He’s very familiar with what is going on around here and I think there’s a lot to be said for that,” said Krystkowiak, who added that “there’s no doubt” in his mind that Brennan could get the job done.
Krystkowiak also said that having worked alongside the nation’s longest-tenured athletic director in Hill is a plus for Brennan.
“That’s all part of the equation. Kyle’s done a nice job. When I first got here he was over in compliance and the academic side of things,” Krystkowiak said. “As is the case with quality people, they find a way to get elevated, and he’s got a lot of positive attributes.”
Women’s gymnastics co-head coach Megan Marsden is also supportive of Brennan. She’s hopeful that much of the culture that Hill has built in the department would continue with him.
“Chris has been a great person to work with and for,” Marsden said. “I know that Kyle has kind of been his right-hand man here for the last few years and I feel like he’s been prepped incredibly to transition this program.”
So much so, in fact, that Marsden considers it invaluable as Utah continues “to try to march onward and upward in the Pac-12.” The Utes have been members of the conference since 2011.
“We’ve had such a great start,” Marsden said. “I hate to see that falter at all or even become stagnant while we have to transition with somebody new that everybody in the department has to kind of get used to and figure out, determine roles and situations and all that.”
Marsden acknowledged it’s a little scary to think about how somebody from the outside might come in and treat a sport like women’s gymnastics. She hopes the program’s body of work speaks for itself.
“I just know that Kyle has already lived it, felt it and knows what’s been going on here in the community and here at this university,” said Marsden, who expressed confidence that Brennan understands that women’s sports need to continue to be supported, developed and treated in an equal manner.
“He has learned from Chris Hill,” Marsden said, noting what she called “very good gender equity” in terms of facilities and other things. “I think Kyle Brennan has had a great mentor in that.”
Brennan, a Washington native, received his bachelor’s degree from Calvin College and graduated from law school at the University of Denver. His wife, Beth, was Utah football’s academic coordinator for several years. The couple has three children — Patrick, Mac and Murphy. Mac is coming off a battle with leukemia. The experience forged an even stronger bond between the Brennans and Salt Lake City.
It was a factor in May 2016 when Kyle opted not to take the athletic director position at Montana State.
“I can’t walk away from this community and this job,” Brennan said at the time. “I love what I do and I love the people I work with. Our family has been so well taken in here and we just feel like this is home.”