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Kenney reflects on time as Athletic Director

By Curtis Brooks
Sports Editor

November 29, 2012

Photo by Jonathan Bym
Dan Kenney, center, during halftime of the homecoming football game on Oct. 27 presents cross country runners Livia Mahaffie and Pardon Ndhlovu with a plaque for winning the PBC championship.

For the first time in 15 years, Dan Kenney will not be leading the Black and Gold sports family as the Director of Athletics after accepting the position of Chief of Staff in the Office of the Chancellor in the beginning of November.

Arguably the most influential person to be affiliated with Braves' athletics since the inception of sports at the institution, Kenney is chiefly responsible for the Black and Gold's prominence in the Peach Belt Conference during the last decade.

Kenney had two previous tenures at the university before becoming the Athletic Director in 1998, first as an assistant coach to the men's basketball team from 1977 to 1980; then after a brief stint at Western Carolina University, he returned to Pembroke to become the head coach of the men's basketball squad from 1985 to 1992.

In 1992 when UNCP made the transition from being an NAIA powerhouse to a Division II institution, Kenney decided to move on and became the head basketball coach of Division I school Winthrop.

After Kenney's mentor Dr. Raymond B. Pennington stepped down as UNCP Director of Athletics in 1998, Kenney received the position at the same school that gave him his first coaching opportunity.

Kenney inherited a program that had struggled to find its identity since joining the Division II ranks but took it as a personal challenge to restore UNCP's athletic prowess that it had during its NAIA days.

Understanding that good coaching is essential to establishing strong programs, Kenney immediately set goals that would persuade prestigious and qualified coaches that could help move UNCP athletics towards the upper echelon of teams in the region and country.

Despite changing the atmosphere in the athletics department, Kenney maintains that the combined efforts of the coaching staff and players are the reason for the student-athletes success on their respective fields and, most importantly, the classroom.

"In athletics, head coaches make the difference, and we have got unbelievable head coaches and support staff. That is why we have been able to get some things done," Kenney explained.

Before 2002, only the wrestling and men's track and field team qualified for postseason play since joining Division II, 10 years prior.

After 2002, almost every one of UNCP's 16 teams have qualified for postseason play including football, women's golf and women's tennis, which were three new additions to the athletic department under Kenney's tutelage.

Kenney feels that the Black and Gold will continue to move in a positive direction in the future because of the foundation that has been set.

Under Kenney, members of Black and Gold sports team have been recipients of all-conference accolades on 130 occasions, 125 all-state honors and All-American laurels on 48 different occasions.

Although the Braves have improved tremendously on the field, Kenney is most proud of the fact the student-athletes at UNCP have excelled in the classroom and have become examples for the rest of the student body.

"I'm so proud of the influence that the head coaches, the assistant coaches and the staff had on student athletes' academic performance," he said.

"Two out of the last three years, UNCP student-athletes had the highest grade point average ratio in the conference, and that's because of the leadership of the head coaches. I'm so proud that those coaches emphasize academics and behavior," Kenney concluded.

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