Gary Cavalli has had a distinguished 45-year career in college and professional sports administration and public affairs. Cavalli served for 14 years until his retirement in 2016 as the President of the San Francisco Bowl Game Association, organizers of the post-season college football game played in the Bay Area, known most recently as the Foster Farms Bowl. He previously was the co-founder and President of the American Basketball League, a women’s professional basketball league, and Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, his alma mater, as well as the founder of a highly-successful public relations/advertising firm.
From its inception in 2002, Cavalli built the Foster Farms Bowl (originally known as the Emerald Bowl and later the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl) into one of the leading bowl games in the country. Cavalli created an elite matchup of teams from the Pac-12 and Big Ten Conferences and moved the game to the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, home of the San Francisco 49ers and site of the 2016 Super Bowl. In its previous tenure at AT&T Park in San Francisco, the bowl sold out four times and consistently ranked as one of the highest-rated college football games on television. For his contributions to college football, Cavalli received the inaugural Legacy Award from the Football Bowl Association in April of 2016.
During his career, in addition to running a college football bowl game and pro sports league, Cavalli founded a highly successful marketing communications firm, produced an award-winning documentary film, wrote a critically-acclaimed book, and managed public relations for Stanford Athletics and Stanford Hospital. As a student, he worked his way through Stanford by serving as assistant sports information director and covering college sports for the Associated Press and San Francisco Chronicle.
After graduating from Stanford in 1971, Cavalli served as assistant information officer at Stanford Medical Center, assuming responsibility for the hospital’s public relations and publicizing the heart transplant program. He returned to the Stanford Athletic Department in 1974 to become, at age 25, the youngest sports information director in the country. As SID, he publicized 31 varsity sports and won 18 national publications awards. He later was promoted to Associate Athletic Director, creating Stanford’s first sports marketing programs, setting football attendance records that still stand, and negotiating corporate sponsorships and broadcast rights. He also managed NCAA Golf and Soccer Championships and the Martin Luther King Freedom Games.
Cavalli left Stanford in 1983 to launch an award-winning, strategic communications firm whose clients included Whole Foods Market, Comerica Bank, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Stanford athletics, Super Bowl XIX and World Cup Soccer.
In 1995, he was one of the founders of a new women's professional basketball league, the American Basketball League, and served as its CEO for three years. The ABL established the most competitive women's league in the world and introduced unprecedented player participation in ownership and management before losing out to the WNBA in 1999.
Cavalli is the author of Stanford Sports, published in 1982 by the Stanford Alumni Association, and co-producer of a documentary movie on professional football, "Disposable Heroes," that premiered on HBO and was later honored by several film societies.
He also served as a member of the Board of Directors of USA Basketball and the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame, and a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and American Science Writers Association
He currently teaches sports and media classes for the Stanford Continuing Studies program and has served as an adjunct professor in sport management at the University of San Francisco.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Cavalli moved to California as a teenager. He and his wife, Christy, have three grown daughters (Erin, Kelly and Alyssa) and four grandchildren. His interests include travel, crime novels, Italian food, California wines, classic rock music and anything his children or grandchildren are doing.