David O'Brien, college sports chief

David P. O'Brien
David P. O'Brien
Posted: March 06, 2014

David P. O'Brien, 57, of Lower Gwynedd, a college sports executive and educator for more than two decades, died Saturday, March 1, of cancer at his home.

Born in Montclair, N.J., Mr. O'Brien graduated from Immaculate Conception High School, Moravian College with a bachelor's degree in political science, and Seton Hall University with a law degree.

He worked as a high school teacher and coach before launching a career as an athletic director at Long Beach State University in 1991. While there, he oversaw construction of the Walter Pyramid, a cobalt-blue pyramid-shaped athletic building.

"My brothers and I were all ball boys in the building," said his son Kevin. "We ran around in it. It was an enjoyable childhood."

In 1996, Mr. O'Brien became athletic director at Temple University, where he directed construction of the Liacouras Center. During his tenure, the men's basketball team made five trips to the NCAA Tournament, including two times in the Elite Eight.

In 2002, he joined the staff of Northeastern University in Boston as athletic director. He set up a sports leadership master's degree program and increased student-athlete graduation rates.

After Northeastern, Mr. O'Brien returned to Philadelphia as an associate teaching professor and program director for sports management at Drexel University. He led the program from 2007 until just before his death.

"He was a strong advocate of education at all of the institutions he served," said his family in a tribute. "He found his greatest professional satisfaction in teaching, and in helping students to pursue their dreams in college athletics."

Throughout his career, Mr. O'Brien was a lecturer, author, and consultant for athletic departments on legal issues. Although he could barely type, Mr. O'Brien ran College Sports Business News, a website on the business and legal aspects of collegiate sports.

"He was really proud of it - for a guy with almost no Web savvy to put that together for a national audience," his son said.

An accomplished golfer, he competed at amateur and professional golf tournaments around the state. He was a five-time club champion at Cedarbrook Country Club, three of those times while battling cancer.

Mr. O'Brien married Eva Foster in 1978. The two grew up on the same block and met on the playground at age 5.

Surviving besides his wife and son are sons Daniel and James; his father, Alfred; four brothers; and three sisters. A son, Michael, died in 1997.

A visitation from 9 to 10:50 a.m. Saturday, March 8, at St. Rose of Lima Church, 424 S. Main St., North Wales, will be followed by an 11 a.m. Funeral Mass. Burial is in St. John Neumann Cemetery, Chalfont.

Donations for upkeep of a ballpark named for his late son may be made to the Mike O'Brien Memorial Fund, c/o Stampone Law, 500 Cottman Ave., Cheltenham, Pa. 19012.


bcook@phillynews.com

610-313-8102

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