Donovan brings Aloha Spirit to Fullerton

Donovan brings Aloha Spirit to Fullerton

Published Jan. 10, 2013 7:41 p.m. ET

Hawaii's Athletic Director James Donovan has left the Aloha State to join the Cal State Fullerton athletic program that he deems as having "tremendous potential."

There isn't much that James Donovan hasn't done at the University of Hawaii in his 21 years with the athletic program. He was a student-athlete on the football team, graduate assistant coach, baseball stadium manager, marketing director, assistant athletics director, associate athletics director, executive director of the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl and named the Director of Athletics for the University of Hawaii at Manoa in March 2008. Though he enjoyed his time at Hawaii, Donovan was ready to face a new challenge and rejoin the community of his birthplace.

He is in the process of developing a plan to upgrade the largest school in the Cal State system that includes improvements to "facilities, budget, staffing and corporate culture -  putting it all together and prioritizing," said Donovan.

A Southern California native and Servite alum, Donovan could not resist the urge to apply for the position at Fullerton.

"Hawaii is a great place to live and work. I have a lot of friends and family there. But I grew up in Southern California in Anaheim and I've always thought that Cal State Fullerton had tremendous amount of potential, especially when you take a radius of 30 to 50 miles around the school it's probably some of the best high school recruits in many, many sports and the top three or maybe the top area in the country." Donovan said.

Part of what attracted Donovan to the school as the new administration, including new president Dr. Mildred García, new VP of Student Affairs Dr. Berenecea Johnson Eanes and VP of academic affairs Jose L. Cruz.

"I am thrilled to now be able to call Jim Donovan a Titan," said President García. "I'm confident in his ability to lead our intercollegiate athletics program with continued success, and ensure an enriching experience for our student-athletes."

Donovan has already started talks to put a plan together to get Fullerton athletics to the next level.

"In the general sense we are starting the process of putting a together a plan budget-wise, [and]  personnel-wise, starting to identify the corporate culture we want to be and starting to put processes and reinforcement in place to create that corporate culture. Midterm in the next few months we'll hopefully put together a five-year strategic plan to really create a road map of where we want to be so people can start making decisions based on the strategic plan."

Fullerton has won 12 national championships in eight sports but more recently has had success with their men's baseball team winning their fourth national championship in 2004. The Titans baseball team has never had a losing season in their 35 years of play.

"The baseball stadium is a nice facility and we are going to continue to make improvements to it so we can keep the competitive advantage that we have a support the success in the 21 years in a row that we have been in the NCAA post season."

Donovan's plans include an overall facelift to the program and facilities that will help other sports as well.

"Part of upgrading the programs is upgrading the facilities. The State of California has gone through some difficult budget time in the lat five years…it seems like its not getting any worse but that's caused some of the facilities maintenance to fall behind. Painting and aesthetic type stuff not uncommon to a lot of facilities right now in general."

University of Hawaii is known for its amazing integration of culture with the university and the community. Donovan hopes to create at Fullerton more of an on campus culture.

"First thing we are going to do is to communicate and reach out to them and help build partnerships and a bridge with the students here on campus and the ones close to campus and students in general and we'll be working on that process during the spring so we can implement in the fall. I think it's an ongoing process and there has to be a sincerity that we want them involve. Its great for our student-athletes when their fellow students come out and support them at our events, it creates or competitive advantage cause its tough on the opponents."

In all his accomplishments, Donovan still feels his most cherished moment was when a  student-athlete, who with a scholarship became the first to graduate in his family, came up to him after graduation and shook his hand.

"That gave me the most self satisfaction being an administrator knowing that you not only changed his life but probably his children and grand children and maybe even his cousins and people horizontal to him because he became a living example that he could get a college degree. That's the success I hold on to. Yes championships, winning rivalry games, going to Oklahoma City, all those things are great. But that was the moment I was proudest."

On Jan. 3 the Titans and Rainbow Warriors met on the court where UH hit a buzzer beater shot to win 90-88 and Donovan was already feeling the change in allegiance as he referred to Fullerton as "us" and Hawaii as "they."

On Feb. 2 the Titans basketball team will get another shot at the Rainbow Warriors  in Titan Gym for their homecoming game. Donovan toyed with the idea of wearing a Hawaiian shirt.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Hawaii and their athletic program, but its go Titans now and beat UH." Donovan said with a laugh.