SportsKery Davis: The man behind Howard University's athletic renaissance

Kery Davis: The man behind Howard University’s athletic renaissance

Howard University is witnessing a renaissance for Bison athletics under the leadership of Kery Davis. For his leadership, he was named the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Athletics Director of the Year by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA).

Davis is the first from Howard to receive the prestigious NACDA honor and only the sixth in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) history.

Having served as athletic director since 2015, the award-winning Davis came to the university with no experience in college athletics.  He previously served as the senior vice president of Programming for HBO’s Sports division.

“When I left HBO after 17 years, I thought long and hard whether my obituary would reflect my time there as my contribution. However, once I got to Howard, that all changed. I felt that I was on the shoulders of those who came before me,” Davis told The Informer.

The athletic director said that he was drawn to Howard following an early influence from one of the university’s iconic graduates. 

“My first job out of college at Dartmouth, I worked for Vernon Jordan,” said Davis of the late civil rights leader.  “He wore the Howard brand with so much pride and often talked about what it meant to him. That inspired me.”

Former Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick was convinced Davis was perfect for the role when he was appointed almost a decade ago.

“As an experienced student-athlete, sports executive, and administrator, Kery Davis comes to Howard with the requisite skills and passion to lead our athletics program. Under Davis’ leadership, I have no doubt that Howard’s student-athletes will continue to flourish at the highest levels on the field and in the classroom,” Frederick said in a statement announcing his appointment.

Growing Howard Athletics, Furthering a Reputation of Excellence

Even with all that motivation, Davis admitted that he faced a challenge of a program that had minimal success over the years. During one period, Howard had seven different directors over a 12-year period.

“When I came in, the plan was to match the athletic experience of the program with the cultural, academic and societal reputations,” he said. 

He further explained how he developed that formula. 

“I think the blueprint for our success started with the women’s volleyball team. My first year, the team played at (perennial power) Penn State in the NCAAs and we were outclassed. They came back the next year and went to Wisconsin for the tournament. Then the third year, they went to Penn State again and were more competitive this time. I was convinced after talking to the volleyball coach, Coach (Shaun) Kupferberg, that if we could put some resources into the program, we could have something.”

Using that modus operandi, it has worked for Davis who has established the Howard University program to be one of the best in college athletics.

In his role, Davis oversees Howard University’s 500 student-athletes and 21 collegiate sports programs, the most of any HBCU. Under Davis, the athletic programs have achieved remarkable academic success, winning awards for their graduation rates and culminating in the highest department GPA in recent history.

Since Davis took the reins in 2015, the Bison have won 31 conference or national championships, led by the women’s volleyball team’s six conference championships, including five in a row from 2015 to 2019.

 Below are more accomplishments under Davis’ tenure:

Howard is one of 22 schools nationwide to make it to a bowl game and advance to the NCAA Tournament (2023-24 season).

In the 2023 academic season alone, Howard won conference championships in women’s cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field, men’s basketball, men’s swimming and diving, football, and the MEAC regular season title in women’s volleyball. The swimming & diving team was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The same year,Howard also won the PGA Minority Works Golf Championship (the HBCU Golf National Championship) and earned a football postseason bid to the Celebration Bowl. 

The football team leads all HBCUs in NCAA annual percentage ratings.

The 2023 athletic season was indeed a comprehensive championship year for Howard on the fields of competition, as the Bison swept the MEAC’s highest honors by winning the 2022-2023 MEAC All Sports honors, the Talmadge Hill Men’s All Sports and the Mary McLeod Bethune Women’s All Sports awards. Howard has also succeeded in the classroom and the community.

Partnerships, Teamwork, and Working Toward the Future

Davis has expanded Howard University’s identity by partnering with the iconic Jordan brand. Howard is one of six athletic programs – basketball and football – sponsored by Jordan. In addition to assisting with facility enhancements, the partnership is further set to collaborate on an exclusive Howard line of Jordan brand merchandise and apparel. 

Further, Davis has negotiated numerous sponsorship deals with national brands, including AT&T, Rocket Mortgage, Nissan, and Nuna Baby.

He said that the formula for success in athletics at a place like Howard is: “You have to have believe in a mission and follow it through.”

Davis explained that at HBCUs, leaders must “be willing to think outside the box and use what limited resources you have wisely.”

He also said that it’s important to “have a strong team of people who share the mission.”

Davis noted the team effort of Paul Bowden, senior associate athletic director for Student Athletic Support Services, Chevonne Mansfield, executive senior associate, senior woman administrator, Nicholas Latham, associate athletic director for Operations, and Nichole Williams, assistant athletic director of Administration. 

“They all share the belief in the mission of student-athletes and their welfare, education, culture and when you don’t always have the resources, 

While the program has improved throughout his nine years of leadership, Davis isn’t done working to strengthen Howard athletics.

“We have a great opportunity as a program for growth,” said Davis. “We have a good team and staff, and we will continue to make Howard University a formidable force in athletics.”

Source: Washington Informer


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