WILBERFORCE — She is the new athletics director at Central State and though she is just 34 and had been to campus only once before this — when she interviewed for the job Dec. 9 — you’re in for a real surprise when you see what all she brings to the table.
And that includes not only if you visited Kevicia Brown in her office Tuesday morning in the Beacom/Lewis Gymnasium building, but also had you stopped by her kitchen Monday night after her very first day of work at Central State.
“Yeah, last night I made ribs with cabbage and sweet potatoes,” she said with a smile. “I love to cook. I grew up cooking. Both sets of my grandparents were in the catering business and I grew up helping them. So that’s all near and dear to me.
“I can make a cake without measuring. I can bake. I can grill. I can smoke.
“Over Christmas break I posted on Twitter a turkey that I cut in half. I marinated each side differently and smoked one half and grilled the other half. It was great!
“I have all the handwritten recipes of my great grandmother and I’m trying to make digital versions of all of them.
“Just a couple of years ago my parents told me they’d thought I’d end up going to culinary school because I love to cook so much.”
She said her venture into athletic administration surprised them. But really it shouldn’t have.
Her path, especially to an Historically Black College and University, is following a family recipe, as well.
She got her undergrad and master’s degrees at Florida A & M University, a storied HBCU in Tallahassee.
“With me, it wasn’t just about deciding on a school, it was a family thing,” she said. “We have bricks in the ground there as a family.
“My parents both went to FAMU. My dad was in the (Marching) 100 (the school’s famed, high-stepping band.) “My aunts and uncles went to FAMU and my cousins, did too.
“My father was in the Army and based overseas. I was born in Nuremburg and I can remember my parents coming back to FAMU from Germany just to watch football games.
“Now my dad is retired now and he and my mom live back in Jacksonville, where they grew up. But they still go to every FAMU home game.”
She talked about how this job taps into a sense of coming home. How HBCUs — not just FAMU and Alabama State, where she was an assistant AD a few years ago, but she’s sure at CSU, too — have a feel of family embrace for the students and student athletes.
“I love so many things about an HBCU,” she said. “There the feel that you’re being nurtured the way an old aunt or grandmother looks out for a family. That’s the heartbeat. The culture. People want you to succeed. People at an HBCU know who you are. It becomes personal.”
After Alabama State, she briefly changed course and became an assistant athletic director at The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina.
When the Central State job opened — previous AD Tara Owens left in September for University of Maryland Eastern Shore and interim AD Nicole Pluger filled the job for four months — Brown said she looked at the opportunity as “a dream job.
“My whole thing with an HBCU is to pour back what has been poured into me.”
‘They’re all becoming Marauder fans’
She said she comes from “a huge military family.”
Her dad was career Army. Her uncle is a retired colonel. Her grandfather was in the service.
“I was an ROTC cadet when I went to school and I was thinking I was going to continue the family tradition and go into the military,” she said. “But after I graduated I realized it just wasn’t my calling.”
Neither had been nursing, which she first went to college to study, nor occupational therapy, in which she got her undergrad degree.
After she took a job as a recreation director at Tallahassee Community, the school hired a new women’s basketball coach and she accepted his offer to be a volunteer assistant.
“It’s the first job where I worked and didn’t get paid,” she laughed. “And I loved it. It felt great! I was excited to go to work every day.
“In the beginning it kind of made my parents upset. It was all the things a parent doesn’t want to see. You’re not using what they sent you to school to study and, worse, you’re not getting paid.”
She eventually got an internship with the U.S. Olympic Committee and after that she worked with The First Tee program.
The job at Alabama State enabled her to help run an HBCU Division I program.
“I knew that’s where I belonged,” she said. “The sparks always happened for me when I was around college athletics.”
And now she said her whole family loves her decision:
“They’re all becoming Marauder fans.”
Brown is the third woman to serve as the athletics director at Central State.
Theresa Check, the Hall of Fame basketball coach, held the positon from 1998 to 2008 and Owens was there from 2018 to last fall.
This is Black History Month and Brown thinks it’s still historic when a woman gets a college AD job: “I think anytime a woman gets an opportunity to sit in the (top) seat, that’s making history. It’s increasing representation.”
In her first two days on campus, she has immersed herself in her job.
It’s just been announced that Central State will face Mississippi Valley State in the Chicago Football Classic, Sept. 2, at Soldier Field.
This weekend Brown will be part of a CSU contingent in Chicago for a press conference announcing the game and its surrounding events. Tuesday she was working to get CSU alums to attend the weekend gathering.
She also beginning the process of meeting with the head coaches of CSU’s 11 sports, all the support staff, and some of the school’s 220-plus athletes, too.
She spent part of Monday walking around the campus and called it “magical.”
The one place she’s come up short so far is in putting together a new Marauder wardrobe. FAMU colors are green and orange, but at CSU they’re maroon and gold.
And that takes some mental adjustment for her.
Those are the same colors as Bethune Cookman, the other main HBCU in Florida and the FAMU’s long-time rival.
“I’ve stopped by the bookstore already to get some things,” she laughed. “I think I’ll get used to wearing maroon and gold.”
A good cook can always come up with a new recipe.
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