Brendan Kelly has consistently sought to transform Major League Lacrosse since becoming owner of the Chesapeake Bayhawks.
Kelly raised the bar when he hired Dave Cottle as general manager and head coach. Major League Lacrosse had not previously seen a team official the caliber of Cottle, one of the most successful coaches in Division I lacrosse history with 279 wins and 21 NCAA Tournament appearances during his 28-year career at Loyola and Maryland.
It sent a strong message to the other MLL franchises and the Denver Outlaws soon followed suit by hiring Tony Seaman, another distinguished former collegiate coach, as general manager.
Now Kelly is taking that strategy to the upper levels of management with the hiring of Mark Burdett as president of the Chesapeake Bayhawks. Burdett, an Annapolis resident, spent 12 years as vice president of Sales and Development for the Baltimore Ravens.
"The Bayhawks changed the professional game when we brought Dave Cottle onboard in 2010," Kelly said. "Mark Burdett represents another high-level move. Mark is a big-time sports executive with a powerhouse of knowledge in many areas. I am confident he will have an immediate positive impact on all facets of the organization."
Burdett left the Ravens in 2012 and has spent the past five years working as president and general manager of WUSA Channel 9 Television, the CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C. He functioned as chief revenue and chief operating officer managing a team of 200 employees at Channel 9, which is owned by TEGNA Media.
Burdett, who worked in television prior to joining the Ravens, resigned his position at Channel 9 on Dec. 31, 2016.
"I've been grinding hard for a lot of years and it was the right time in my life to step away from that part of my career," Burdett said. "I wasn't ready to completely retire and the Bayhawks offered a new and unique opportunity that I am very excited about. As an old lacrosse player, I look forward to getting back into the game I love."
Kelly said the hiring of Burdett completes his long-held desire to build a management "dream team" for the Bayhawks. Cottle, who resigned as head coach following the 2015 season, will remain as general manager focused solely on personnel decisions.
"It's all about keeping people in their proper lanes and playing to their strengths," Kelly said. "Dave Cottle has a brilliant lacrosse mind and has done an unbelievable job for this organization on a lot of levels. Mark Burdett brings a different type of expertise and will take the Bayhawks to another level on the business side. Mark has an incredible understanding of media and marketing."
Cottle, who held the title of president since 2012, was more than happy to pass off some of the organizational duties such as selling season ticket packages, drumming up sponsorship and forging media partnerships.
"In order for the Chesapeake Bayhawks to reach the next level, we had to make this move. Mark's experience in professional sports is something this organization just didn't have," said Cottle, who was succeeded as head coach by Brian Reese. "Mark is a tremendous individual with a thorough understanding of the business end of a pro franchise. I was trying to manage a lot of moving parts and just couldn't do it anymore. I'm going to stick to the lacrosse side of things."
Burdett is a 1976 Severn School graduate, where he played basketball and lacrosse. He continued with the stick sport at the University of Maryland, where he was a defenseman under head coach Clayton "Buddy" Beardmore.
Burdett started off in the television industry, first with Paramount (WDCA) then with Albrecht (WJLA). He went to work with the Baltimore Ravens in 2000 after longtime friend Steve Bisciotti became minority owner. In his role as vice president, Burdett oversaw all team revenue, served as point of contact on all broadcast negotiations, developed programming relationships with major networks, managed all related acquisitions, expansions, sales and multimedia deals to include television, radio and online content.
Kelly got to know Burdett while the former was a Baltimore Ravens season ticket holder and suite owner at M&T Bank Stadium for six years. They routinely played golf together and Burdett always expressed great interest in Major League Lacrosse and the Bayhawks.
"Mark has been somewhat of a sports mentor for me. I've constantly tried to tap into his knowledge and expertise," Kelly said. "Landing an executive the caliber of Mark Burdett is a huge pull for the Bayhawks because his resume runs so deep. He is going to help take this organization to another level."
Kelly has quickly charged Burdett with creating a five-year vision for Chesapeake's sales, marketing and sponsorship He believes the partnership of Burdett, Cottle and Reese will transform the Bayhawks into the No. 1 franchise in Major League Lacrosse in terms of all three metrics.
Burdett, 58, will also spearhead an initiative to launch a stadium designed and built specifically for the Chesapeake Bayhawks, a dream Kelly has long harbored. "We have a vision to develop the first professional lacrosse complex in the country," said Kelly, a lifelong Annapolis resident.
Kelly made his fortune in the staffing business, first as owner of a company called Single Source and currently with a different firm known as Smartlink. Burdett said his ultimate goal is to make the Chesapeake Bayhawks a more self sufficient organization and less dependent on financial support from Smartlink.
"In order to truly be successful, this franchise has to stand on its own. I believe strongly that we can all work together to make that happen," Burdett said. "I've always had a real passion for the sport of lacrosse and I think the professional product is very exciting — fast-paced and high-scoring. There are a lot of good things happening in Major League Lacrosse, which I think really showcases the superb athleticism of today's players."