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Bill Kavanagh '04
This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.
Back in 2003, Bill Kavanagh was a co-captain of the first-ever Bentley football team to earn a berth in the Division II national playoffs. This season, the Class of 2004 Falcon returns to roost as the squad’s head coach – the first alumnus ever to occupy the post.
“Bentley is special to me,” he says. “I always followed the team and the school because they did great things for me and my friends. This is a really good chance to give back to a place that gave a lot to me.”
Though just 10 years removed from his own gridiron days, Kavanagh is confidently taking the handoff from Thom Boerman, who retired as head coach at the end of last season.
“In coaching, you can’t anticipate your next step,” says the 31-year-old. “You just need to prepare for it.”
Kavanagh’s training began soon after he graduated, management degree in hand. A native of Dartmouth, Mass., he spent three years on the UMass–Dartmouth sidelines (where his dad, Bill Sr., is the long-standing coach) followed by a year at Stonehill College. During a short stint as an assistant at Bentley, Kanavagh was recruited by one of the most elite football programs in the country: Penn State.
“I hustled down there pretty quickly for an interview and was offered the job within three days,” he recalls.
Hired as a graduate assistant, Kanavagh worked with the team while completing a master’s degree in education leadership. He earned his way up to director of player personnel, managing a staff of 14 coaches and 30 interns, the personnel office, and a roster of 115 players. Overseeing the administrative side of the operation provided an invaluable understanding of a football program’s big picture.
“A lot of coaching is what goes on during the other 12 hours of the day, not just the two hours of practice or the four hours of a game,” he explains. “That job [at Penn State] prepared me to be a head coach. It takes a lot more than being the guy on the sidelines at game time.”
Flying Straight and Narrow
His time with the Nittany Lions included harsh lessons borne from the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.
“It greatly affected my job because I was involved in recruiting. We were trying to field a team with 75 percent of the scholarship roster of our competitors,” says Kavanagh, who was in charge of managing penalties levied on the program by the NCAA (including a reduction in scholarships, four-year ban on postseason bowl game appearances, and $60 million fine).
“I had to be creative in order to get good players and good kids to come to Penn State,” he continues. “It all just drove home the point of being honest and forthright in everything you do.”
Between January and the start of spring practice in March, Kavanagh stayed busy directing his seven coaches (including former teammate Adam Griggs ’06), wrapping up recruiting, and getting to know his returning players. He was also house hunting with wife Kristen and daughter Anna; the couple is expecting a second child this summer.
Kavanagh is impressed by his squad’s work ethic and commitment thus far.
“If the effort and dedication that the team has put in over the last three months is any indication of the future,” he says, “I’m confident we will a field a competitive, tough football team this fall.”
Falcon football ended last season at 6-5. The team’s preseason schedule starts August 14; its first game is September 6 at home against Mercyhurst.
In the most recent U.S. News & World Report rankings of America’s Best Colleges 2017, Bentley University is ranked #3 among “Best Regional Universities - North.”