He joined UC Davis in 2016 as deputy athletics director
Chancellor says DeLuca “puts the academic success of our student-athletes first”
He’s also a fundraiser, setting records and boosting annual giving 150 percent since 2016
Following a national search, University of California, Davis, Chancellor Gary S. May has selected Rocko DeLuca as the university’s next athletics director. DeLuca has been serving as the interim director since Jan. 1, 2021.
DeLuca came to UC Davis in 2016, when former Athletics Director Kevin Blue hired him to be deputy director and lead external relations and fundraising efforts. He set record fundraising levels each year, and, since 2016, increased annual giving 150 percent. DeLuca also significantly increased capital gifts, from $2 million in 2016 to $7.2 million in 2020. He was instrumental in bringing in private gifts for the Edwards Family Athletics Center, which is set to open in 2022.
“Rocko has shown tremendous leadership in a range of areas, including ensuring the success of programs like our Student-Athlete Outcomes, or EVO program,” May said. “Most importantly, Rocko puts the academic success of our student-athletes first and prioritizes meaningful relationships with students across campus. He’s formed strong relationships with our coaches and with students, faculty and staff across both the Davis and Sacramento campuses. I know he’ll build on the foundation that Athletics has strengthened in recent years.”
Previously, DeLuca was senior associate athletic director and executive director of development at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, for six years. There he was responsible for raising $26 million and for the planning and funding of $75 million in athletic facility projects. He was assistant athletic director at the University of Colorado, Boulder, for four years before that, where he created the Buff Club Cabinet, an annual donation level of $25,000 that comprised 68 members generating $2.7 million in contributions.
Scott Carrell, faculty athletics representative and professor of economics, chaired the athletics director recruitment advisory committee. “Rocko served as deputy AD for five of the most prosperous years for UC Davis Athletics,” Carrell said. “In addition to his strength in fundraising, he’s increased attendance at competitions and overhauled the fan experience. I have full confidence that Rocko will be a great AD.”
As director, DeLuca will report to the chancellor on policy matters pertaining to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Big West Conference, Big Sky Conference and other applicable conferences. UC Davis’ Intercollegiate Athletics program employs more than 75 full- and part-time coaches and more than 50 full- and part-time support staff. DeLuca will be responsible for the eligibility and welfare of student-athletes, program operations, short- and long-term fiscal planning and management, marketing and promotions, corporate sponsorships, television and radio contracts, and public relations with Intercollegiate Athletics constituents.
“I would like to thank Chancellor Gary May, search chair Scott Carrell and the recruitment advisory committee for entrusting me to lead this exceptional organization in which so many share our Aggie Pride,” said DeLuca, who earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and master’s degree in sports administration from the University of Northern Colorado.
“I am honored to work alongside our outstanding coaches and staff as we serve and inspire our student-athletes. I look forward to working with our campus partners, students, donors, alumni and fans as we build upon our tradition of ‘Togetherness’ and find new ways to elevate our profile.”
UC Davis students are regularly named to Big West Academic All-Conference honor rolls. Last July, a record 90 UC Davis student-athletes were honored for winter and spring sports for maintaining a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher. In addition, UC Davis has one of the largest student-spirit organizations in the country, the Aggie Pack, with more than 8,000 annual members and 50,000 lifetime members.
What others are saying
Tom Wistrcill, commissioner, Big Sky Conference — “I’m very excited for Rocko and for UC Davis. He has been a great addition to our athletic directors’ discussions about Big Sky football. His knowledge and connections within the conference will be very helpful as he leads Davis Athletics.“
Dan Butterly, commissioner, Big West Conference — “I am excited Rocko DeLuca has been named director of Athletics at UC Davis. During his time as interim AD, Rocko has been active in discussions within the Big West governance structure. He is clear on UC Davis’ positions and reasoning on issues and has earned respect for his candor and professionalism. College athletics continues to face many challenges and with Rocko’s leadership, UC Davis Athletics is well-positioned for continued success.”
Mike Bohn, director of athletics, University of Southern California — “Rocko stands for all that is right about being an impactful leader in intercollegiate athletics. His integrity, work ethic and passion for supporting student-athletes will provide an immediate lift to the entire UC Davis community.”
Christopher V. May, director of athletics, Saint Louis University — “Congratulations to UC Davis and Chancellor May for securing Rocko DeLuca as the full- time athletic director. Rocko is the perfect person to build upon the successes of the UC Davis athletic program and deliver a program of excellence that the entire Aggie community can be proud of. Rocko’s passion for serving student-athletes coupled with his impeccable relationship-building skills will be great assets for UC Davis. The future is bright for the UC Davis athletic program with Rocko DeLuca as the athletic director and his wonderful family, Kristen and Siena, as the first family of the Aggies!”
Ryan Bamford, director of athletics, University of Massachusetts — “Congratulations to UC Davis and Chancellor May on a truly informed hire. Rocko DeLuca will provide outstanding leadership for Aggie Athletics. Rocko is a genuine connector who will continue to build a community of support for the department and university. I am excited for Rocko and his family. I know he will make a positive difference in the lives of the UC Davis student-athletes, coaches and staff.”
The recruitment advisory committee included alumni, student leaders, student-athletes, faculty representatives, coaches and campus leaders. DeLuca will assume his new role on April 1.
He joined UC Davis in 2016 as deputy athletics director