Jim Donovan, a veteran collegiate athletics administrator with more than 20 years of experience, is in his sixth year as the Director of Athletics at Cal State Fullerton, a role in which he was appointed in December 2012.
Since taking the reigns as the 11th director of athletics in school history, Donovan has brought Cal State Fullerton to new heights as the athletics department has notched several major accomplishments both academically and athletically speaking.
Under Donovan’s leadership, the Titans have won 21 Big West Conference Championships and the Titan baseball team made the College World Series in two of the last four seasons after not making it to Omaha since 2009. The softball program has also soared to new heights, as its begun a dynasty of its own, claiming three consecutive Big West Conference titles. Women’s soccer has advanced to the NCAAs in four of the past five seasons, men’s soccer has qualified for the NCAA Tournament in three of the past four campaigns, while Titan Track & Field is officially on the map, claiming back-to-back Big West crowns.
As dominant as Fullerton has been on the field of competition, the Titans’ accomplishments off of it have been even more impressive. In Donovan’s six years as Athletic Director, the Titans have raised over $10.2 million through the department's development office. Ticket sales have also increased by nearly 46 percent since his arrival, as the Titans managed to sell a school-record $560,494 in tickets during the 2017-18 campaign.
Most impressively, the Titans have shed the “commuter school” label that many thought would be impossible. Since Donovan’s arrival on campus, Titan Athletics has gone from barely being able to attract 1,000 students to athletics events over an academic year, to now seeing well over 16,000 passionate Cal State Fullerton students supporting Titan student-athletes in each of the last two seasons. The newly created “Stampede” student section has rapidly increased by over 1,200 percent over the last six seasons, making Titan facilities some of the rowdiest in the Big West Conference.
The 2017-18 academic year was one for the ages, as Titan Athletics made history under Donovan’s fifth year of leadership. Fullerton claimed the department’s first Big West Commissioner’s Cup title in school history. The award is given out yearly to the conference’s winningest athletics department, based on league titles and top finishes.
During 2017-18, the Titans claimed conference titles in a school-record six different team sports in Baseball, Softball, Men’s Soccer, Women’s Soccer, Men’s Basketball and Men’s Track & Field. Fullerton also finished second in women’s tennis and earned top three finishes in both men’s and women’s cross country. The dance team also notched second place at the UDA/UCA Collegiate National Championship.
In 2016-17, the Titans proved to the rest of the conference that they were a department to be reckoned with up and down the board, as Cal State Fullerton produced a record-setting year, as seven different teams boasted winning records for the first time in school history. Baseball, softball, men’s basketball, women’s tennis, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and men’s track & field all accomplished the feat.
In addition to the overall success, Titan baseball found themselves back in Omaha for the 18th time in school history and for the second time in the last three seasons, after defeating rival Long Beach State at Blair Field in the Super Regional round. Softball also became back-to-back Big West champions, while the men’s track & field program claimed its first ever league crown.
Women’s golfer Martina Edberg wowed the golf world, as she leaves Cal State Fullerton as arguably the greatest golfer to ever do it for the Titans. Her collegiate career ended at the NCAA National Championships in Sugar Grove, Illinios. The Titan dance team also kept its incredible streak of dominance alive, as it won its 16th overall UDA/UCA Collegiate National Championship. It marked the program’s eighth consecutive title.
For there to be success on the field, there has to be support off of it, and Donovan has been able to get plenty of that. Fullerton’s development team was able to raise over $2 million, while the department was also able to net nearly $300,000 in sponsorship dollars. Both marks were department records for a single season. The Titans also set new single-season records for student attendance and ticket sales.
During the 2015-16 season alone, men’s and women’s soccer, softball and baseball brought home conference titles and each made appearances in the NCAA postseason along with women’s golfer Martina Edberg.
In January 2016, the Cal State Fullerton dance team clinched its 15th UDA/UCA Collegiate National Championship at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., as the Titans competed in the Division I Jazz category.
One of Donovan’s first priorities upon arrival was to revamp and improve fundraising for Titan Athletics. With the addition of Associate Athletics Director for Development Greg Paules, in 2013, there has been a significant upward trend in overall donations and net revenue from numerous fundraising events.
During the 2015-16 school year alone, Titan Athletics raised more than $1.45 million and in the three full years since Donovan’s arrival the athletics department has raised upwards of $4 million, essentially matching the amount raised in the previous ten years. The more than three-fold increase in fundraising has enabled all sports to enhance their budgets, which is having a direct impact on the improved competitive success of a majority of athletic programs.
Another one of Donovan’s focuses was increasing student attendance which has increased by 217-percent. For years student attendance had been lacking as the “commuter campus” label was faulted for the low turnout. However, under Donovan, student attendance has seen a nearly twelve-fold increase in just three years. In 2012-13, a total of 1,200 students attended Titan athletics events, while 2013-14 saw that number increase to 4,800. In 2014-15, 12,385 students came out to athletics events and just last school year the Titans saw the student attendance jump to 14,295.
Since Donovan’s hiring in 2012, Cal State Fullerton has also seen a spike in sponsorships from $120,000 to $271,000, a 125-percent increase as well as in ticket sales from $385,000 to $479,136 marking a 24.5-percent increase.
In his short time at the helm of the Cal State Fullerton athletics department, Donovan has been an integral part in getting the Student Success Initiative (SSI) passed. The SSI, which was approved by the Student Fee Committee, President Mildred Garcia and CSU Chancellor Timothy White over the summer of 2014, allows the university to make substantive improvements through a multi-faceted student fee that will bring upgrades to athletics facilities and provide additional scholarship support for students as well as strengthen academic advising and provide upgraded technology and much more for the good of the university as a whole.
With the SSI in place, Cal State Fullerton athletics facilities have seen many upgrades including a state-of-the-art weight and training facility, the refurbishment of Titan Gym and Titan Stadium which incorporated a new $550,000 video scoreboard, lighting upgrades to the intramural fields, as well as first-class branding at all the athletics facilities.
Additionally, the tennis courts have been completely refurbished and refinished along with Titan branded windscreens and Anderson Family Field boasts a new video scoreboard and a branded outfield fence highlighting the success of the softball program.
More than $1 million was spent upgrading the Titan Track facility, including the jumps area, shot put area, hammer area, spectator bleachers and the track is scheduled to be resurfaced before the end of the calendar year.
In 2013, Donovan implemented the “Titan Top Ten Musts” which focused all department employees on the importance of customer service – not just to ticket purchasers, but also to student-athletes, donors, members of the campus community, alumni, and other department staff members. Each year Titan Athletics conducts an academic year-ending survey, and to date every year the customer service scores for the areas that Titan Athletics manages have consistently improved.
Academically, all teams are on track to obtain a four-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) above 946 and a total of 180 Cal State Fullerton student-athletes have been named to the Big West Conference All-Academic Team since 2012.
Last year, Titan Athletics saw an all-athlete APR of 975, the best overall score since the Academic Progress Rate’s inception in 2004. In addition, under Donovan’s tutelage, graduation rates have been improving and more than 250 Titan student-athletes have earned degrees.
Entering into his fourth full year as Director of Athletics, Donovan is working on implementing a long-term facility improvement plan, continuing to advance academic and competitive success, enhancing the overall “financial health” of Titan Athletics, and working towards raising more than $2 million in philanthropic support in an academic year, which would be a first in Titan Athletics history.
Donovan came to Cal State Fullerton after overseeing Hawaii’s 21-sport operation with a budget of more than $30 million from 2008-12. During his tenure, the athletic programs saw a collective improvement in both APR and overall grade point average (GPA) while managing a department that included more than 120 full-time staff, 200-plus part-time staff, and 450-plus student-athletes.
Donovan spearheaded a fund-raising effort that secured more than $40 million in public and private capital improvement projects and increased planned giving and major gifts from $5 million to an estimated $14 million. He also secured a partnership with ESPN Regional Television for the creation of the Diamond Head Classic basketball tournament and negotiated a contract with Oceanic Time Warner Cable and KFVE-TV on another television partnership that brought in more than $14 million to the athletics department over a six-year period.
On the field, the Rainbow Warriors competed at a high level, making 20 postseason appearances, including two football bowl appearances, an NCAA semifinal appearance for women’s volleyball, softball’s inaugural appearance in the Women’s College World Series, and postseason tournament appearances for men’s basketball, sand volleyball, and men’s and women’s tennis.
Donovan spent 17 years in athletics at Hawaii prior to a six-year hiatus as the Executive Director of the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl from 2002-08, beginning as a two-year offensive lineman for the Rainbow Warriors in 1981-82, earning honorable mention All-Western Athletic Conference honors as a senior. From there, he spent two years as a graduate assistant football coach and followed that with a three-year stint as manager of baseball’s Les Murakami Stadium.
In 1988, Donovan was promoted to sports marketing director, spending six years heading up the promotion and corporate sponsorship aspects of the department. In 1994, he was named the assistant athletics director for administrative services and, two years later, became the department’s associate athletics director for nine years, serving as the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer.
He served on the Gender Equity Subcommittee and was the department’s spokesperson for matters involving the Hawaii state legislature, UH Board of Regents, Athletic Advisory Board, Aloha Stadium Authority, NCAA Certification Committee, and various other community organizations. Donovan also served as president and CEO of m2c, Inc., a business consulting company that provides leadership and strategic direction in event management. Some of his clients included ESPN Regional Television, Panda Travel, and Sodexo Food Services.
A 1983 graduate of Hawaii with a bachelor’s degree in geography, he earned an executive master’s degree in business administration in 1996.
An Anaheim, Calif., native who attended both Servite High School and Santa Ana College, Donovan is married to the former Tracy Orillo and they have two children, Jacqueline and Joshua.