MURRAY, Ky. — Murray State University named Kevin Saal its ninth director of athletics at a news conference Friday, March 1 at the Murray Room of the CFSB Center in Murray, Kentucky.
Coming to Murray State after 12 years at the University of Kentucky, Saal brings a wealth of experience in both internal and external affairs to the Racer athletics program.
Dr. Bob Jackson, Murray State President, introduced Saal in front of a large crowd of Murray State supporters and staff.
“We are very excited about Kevin, Jennifer and their sons joining our Racer Family,” Jackson said. “Kevin has a wealth of experience, is a seasoned athletics administrator and has the necessary integrity, vision, passion and enthusiasm to assist us in taking Racer Athletics to a new, higher level. Most importantly, he understands the needs of our student-athletes, the long and successful history of our athletics programs, the importance of our fans, alumni and supporters and the need to be highly visible in our region and state as we advance Murray State University.”
Murray State is gaining an experienced leader at the senior and executive levels and one that managed similar annual resources. More importantly, the Racers are getting a leader that is a well-rounded professional and wants to be part of the Murray State family.
“My family and I are tremendously honored and blessed to be a part of the Racer Family,” Saal said. “I would like to thank President Jackson, the Board of Regents and search committee for their trust and confidence. Murray State is a special place with a long history and tradition of success. I look forward to supporting our student-athletes and coaches, connecting with our constituents, working with a great team of colleagues and supporters and advancing each one of our programs.”
In 2007, Saal joined the athletics staff at UK and enjoyed a working atmosphere that allowed for tremendous personal and professional growth under Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart. Saal showed solid leadership in the areas of sports administration, capital projects and facilities construction, budget and human resources management and championships administration.
Saal brings a tremendous work ethic and knowledge of key areas in college athletics to Murray State, including personnel development and supervision. At UK, he was responsible for a similar size staff as he’ll have at Murray State.
Saal excelled in developing relationships with donors at Kentucky. As a member of Mitch Barnhart’s executive team, Saal played a significant role in the friend-raising and fundraising process, including Athletics’ ongoing $500M commitment to the University of Kentucky’s $2.1B “Kentucky Can” capital campaign. He also assisted in hosting 100 external events at the university that led to $350,000 in new revenue.
Since 2013, Saal was heavily involved in unprecedented facilities growth as one of the leaders for the design and construction or renovation of eight UK athletics venues, including a $135M project to renovate Kroger Field for football and a $49M construction project to build Kentucky Proud Park for baseball. In total, Saal has served in various roles in the design and construction process for approximately $250M in new athletic facilities.
Saal had oversight of the Kentucky men’s soccer program (since 2010) and the baseball program (since 2013). After a nine-year NCAA drought, the soccer team has participated in five of the last seven NCAA Tournaments. Additionally, in 2017, UK baseball won its first NCAA regional title and made a first NCAA Super-Regional appearance in program history. His efforts for soccer and baseball included managing budgets, maintaining NCAA compliance, roster and academic performance and contract negotiations.
In the area of championships administration, Saal led a department that hosted 50 championship events for the Southeastern Conference and NCAA. While at Kentucky, he led the effort to host Kentucky High School Athletic Association championships, which resulted in the football championships being hosted at UK for the first time since 1976. He also supported Mitch Barnhart’s role on the NCAA men’s basketball selection committee.
Saal’s academic career began at the University of Arkansas (1995-96) as a swimming and diving student-athlete who majored in psychology. When the program was discontinued, he transferred and competed at Texas Christian University where he earned his B.S. in psychology in 1999. Saal earned a M.S. in athletics administration at the University of Kansas in 2000.
Prior to his long association at Kentucky, Saal served at Kansas State (2000-05) where he was event coordinator and had administrative responsibilities supporting men’s and women’s golf and rowing. From 2005-07, he was director of operations at the University of Missouri-Kansas City before arriving at the University of Kentucky in 2007.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT KEVIN SAAL
“I am very happy for Kevin, (wife) Jennifer, (children) Jacob and Alex for this next step on their journey. Kevin is an amazing, incredibly talented leader with the capacity to make people around him better every day. I’m thankful for what he’s done here and excited that part of our UK family will stay in the Commonwealth of Kentucky as we watch him grow the program at Murray State. On a personal note, Connie and I – albeit happy for the Saals and Murray State – will certainly miss them as they have come to be part of our family over the last 12 years.” – Mitch Barnhart, University of Kentucky Director of Athletics
“Since 2007 Kevin has been part of a transformational leadership team supporting the University of Kentucky athletics program and he will now bring that knowledge and work ethic to support and build at Murray State. I have watched Kevin contribute and grow as a highly respected collegiate athletics administrator and am confident his integrity, innovative thinking, dedication to student-athlete success and community engagement will help the Racers athletics program thrive. I am happy, both for Kevin and his family and for the Murray State family to be pursuing their highly successful future together.” – SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey
“Murray State has landed a strong leader to guide their athletics program. Kevin Saal prioritizes the student-athlete experience and his passion for intercollegiate athletics will be infectious in the department, University and community.” – Rob Mullens, University of Oregon Director of Athletics
“Kevin and I have known each other for more than 10 years. I am confident that his commitment to the student-athlete experience, combined with his hard work and humility, make him the perfect fit for Murray State. There is no doubt he and his family will give everything they have to running a first-class program.” – Mark Coyle, University of Minnesota Director of Athletics
“Murray State has made a wise choice in selecting Kevin Saal as its new athletic director. Kevin possesses the experience and intellect that all successful people have, but more importantly he is a man of great character and integrity who will put his student-athletes and staff at the forefront of his decision-making process.” – University of Florida Athletics Director Scott Stricklin.
Photo: Murray State University named Kevin Saal its ninth director of athletics at a news conference Friday, March 1 at the Murray Room of the CFSB Center in Murray, Kentucky.