Breaking Through

Photo by Brandon Parigo, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

New athletic director seeks to ignite fan base

Brandon Martin officially begins his tenure Dec. 3 as director of athletics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. That’s “officially” because he’s been hard at work since his appointment was announced Nov. 14.

He’s committed to solving a puzzle that has eluded predecessors for decades: while the Roos have produced conference champions in competition and excelled in the classroom, the teams’ fan base is fervent but small. They have not yet broken through to ignite a sizable fan base across campus or in the community.

His best asset right now is his track record.

Martin has athletic leadership experience at two of the nation’s leading Power Five conference programs, Southern California and Oklahoma. At Cal State-Northridge, he took over a Division I athletic program that was largely ignored by campus and community, and raised donations by 450 percent and student attendance for men‘s basketball by 71 percent. During his last full year there, his programs had three All-Americans, nine individual Big West Champions, three Big West Coaches of the Year and eight Big West Players of the Year.

Oh, and by the way, that’s Doctor Brandon E. Martin, Ph.D.

When Introduced as the new leader of UMKC Athletics last month, Martin said he won’t be accomplishing anything on his own.

“I’m not a savior. We’re going to do this all together,” Martin said. As a senior associate athletics director at Oklahoma, he made annual trips to Kansas City for the Big 12 basketball tournament. “Kansas City is a great sports town, so we just have to get people engaged.

“There’s really no ceiling on how great we can become.”

Martin’s goals for UMKC’s program are straightforward. Become a Top 100 Division I program. Winning Western Athletic Conference championships and earning NCAA tournament berths. Providing a first-rate campus life experience for student athletes, while producing graduates who not only earn degrees, but develop as leaders for campus and community.

Martin put to rest any lingering questions about the status of UMKC athletics. “We are playing at the Division I level. Period.”

Martin is taking over a UMKC program that has a reputation for academic achievement, a reputation he has a real passion to not just continue, but build on.

“I always had a passion for education. I always knew that I would become a teacher, I just didn’t know at what level.” So when he was recruited to play basketball at USC, he enrolled in the university’s Rossier School of Education. After graduation, he stayed at USC to begin his career in athletic administration, but also enrolled in graduate school.

“I wanted to work in college athletics, but I wanted to be connected to the true fabric and true mission of a university,” Martin said. “I knew that I needed a terminal degree.”

At USC, Martin served as an assistant professor of clinical education at Rossier. His dissertation entitled “A Phenomenological Study of Academically Driven African American Male Student-Athletes at Highly Selective Division I Universities” won the 2005 Rossier School of Education Dissertation of the Year Award. In 2005, he also earned the National Association of Academic Advisors award for Student-Athlete Excellence in Research. He has presented more than 40 papers, symposia and workshops at national higher education conferences. In 2014, Martin was appointed to the NCAA Committee on Academics.

Before serving as athletics director at Cal State-Northridge, Martin served as a senior associate athletics director for administration at the University of Oklahoma. He handled day-to-day administration for Men’s Basketball, Men’s/Women’s Track and Field, Cross Country, Women’s Soccer and Rowing. His duties also included oversight of departmental strategic planning, marketing and promotions, human resources, strength and conditioning, Big 12 and NCAA legislation, risk management, NCAA certification and all diversity and inclusion programming for the department. While at the University of Oklahoma, Martin also served on the President’s Graduation and Retention Task Force.

In addition to student-athlete development and winning championships, Martin said integrity and engagement also will be hallmarks of Roo athletics under his leadership.

“It’s important to win, but you have to do it the right way,” he said. He, along with coaches and student-athletes, will engage with students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and fans. “It’s engagement that will be meaningful. We’re giving the whole Kansas City community an invitation to come and see how we are building up our program.”

“My words and actions have to connect,” Martin added. “I have to paint a picture of who we can be. My vision is for the Roos to become a Top 100 program, but I have to explain to people how we’re going to get there.”

His road map starts with providing the best campus experience possible for student-athletes. That will require additional resources, so jump-starting fundraising will be critical. It continues with meaningful engagement to generate excitement about the program’s possibilities.

Then, the program has to close the deal.

“We have to win. Winning championships is paramount.”

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