Ryan Kane
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Word has been spreading for a while that the Firebirds are going places, which attracted an enthusiastic new driver who’s ready to lean on the accelerator.

After building a strong resume in similar settings, Ryan Kane took over as Carthage’s director of athletics in April. He’s been involved in NCAA Division III sports for more than 25 years as a student-athlete, coach, and senior administrator.

“I wanted to be part of the new chapter here,” he says. “There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity for Carthage Athletics to take the next step. We’re not interested in the status quo.”

This feature story first appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of The Carthaginian magazine.


The program’s results have been stellar. Since 2020, the Firebirds have won five national championships (two team and three individual) while adding four competitive sports (for a total of 28). Rather than the peak, Mr. Kane sees this as just the beginning of an upward trend.

The pieces are largely in place. On the whole, Mr. Kane says Carthage’s athletic facilities can match any in the region. The staff is strong. And he considers the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin an elite league at this level.

All that’s left is to infuse those high expectations throughout everything the Athletic Department does. In the first few coaching hires he’s made at Carthage, Mr. Kane sought out “relationship- builders” — candidates who can draw up plays on the clipboard but also inspire the people around them.

“We can be a D-III program and still provide student-athletes with a first-class experience that feels like Division I,” the new director says.

While the newcomer works to gain trust, he’s counting on a fired-up alumni base to set the tone.

“The people I’ve met speak so highly and so passionately about their time as Carthage student-athletes, it’s easy to feed off their energy,” Mr. Kane says. “They’re the biggest ambassadors for these programs.”

Carthage hired him away from Ripon College in central Wisconsin, where he held dual roles as director of athletics and men’s basketball coach. Mr. Kane relocated to Kenosha with his wife, Paige, and their three daughters.

He replaces Nate Stewart, who left the Firebirds to begin a new career path outside of athletics.

“Ryan’s success as both a coach and athletic director at small, private schools in the Upper Midwest made him the perfect choice to take over our thriving athletic programs,” says President John Swallow. “His expertise in leadership, management, recruiting, and fundraising allowed him to hit the ground running.”

Raised in Green Bay, Mr. Kane competed in basketball and golf while studying communications at nearby St. Norbert College. He then earned a master’s in sports administration from Valparaiso (Indiana) University.

As Ripon’s coach, he reached 100 wins faster than anyone in program history. As the Red Hawks’ athletic director, he oversaw a program that set school records with seven Midwest Conference championships and 195 academic all-conference honorees in 2022 alone.

“I love the private liberal arts approach to education and the skillset it provides,” he explains. “Carthage has struck the right balance between competing at a championship level and setting the environment for learning.”