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Ziady brings 'clout' to Delaware AD position
New UD athletic director eager to get started: Eric Ziady was introduced today as the University of Delaware’s new athletic director. Ziady had been the senior associate athletic director/business operations at Boston College. He went to BC in 1998 after nine years at Northeastern.
Eric Ziady spent the last 14 years engaged in the high-stakes, high-finance process of operating an NCAA Division I athletic department at a BCS school.
Ziady helped steer Boston College, where he was senior associate athletic director/business operations, in its move from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2005.
He had fiscal oversight for a private school with 9,000-plus undergraduates that fields 31 sports and operates a $64 million athletic budget requiring considerable fundraising.
He oversaw a football program and negotiated a multimillion-dollar all-sports apparel deal with Under Armour.
Those experiences, and the personal impressions he left along the way, led Ziady to being named Wednesday as the University of Delaware’s director of intercollegiate athletics and recreation services.
Delaware landed “someone with clout,” school President Patrick Harker said, “and someone who can connect and engage with Delaware and Delaware’s amazing fans.”
But it was the impression Delaware made on Ziady during visits in the 1990s, when he was working at then-America East rival Northeastern, that moved the 47-year-old to pursue the UD position.
“They always beat us,” Ziady first said when asked what made him feel Delaware was a special place during an introductory news conference at the Carpenter Center, where he’d attended America East men’s basketball tournaments.
“I was struck by the experience our [Northeastern] kids had,” Ziady said. “It was a very first-rate operation in putting on the America East championship. With a basketball tourney, you have a chance to spend a few days here versus when you’re just coming down for one day. So I had an opportunity to spend some time on campus, spend some time downtown, to walk up and down Main Street and see Delaware gear everywhere.
“We have a great following and great fan base at Boston College, but I remember a few years back we were No. 2 in the country in football and the Red Sox were in the playoffs and we were on page six. So it’s a different ballgame. … I was always impressed with the people, the campus and the interest in the community here at Delaware.”
And now Ziady is a part of it, along with his wife, Lauren, and their three young children who joined him, along with other family members, on Wednesday.
Ziady replaces Bernard Muir, who left Delaware in August after three years to become athletic director at Stanford.
An Andover, Mass., native and 1988 Providence College graduate, Ziady becomes just the sixth full-time UD athletic director in 87 years following Gerald Doherty (1926-41), Bill Murray (1941-51), Dave Nelson (1951-84), Edgar Johnson (1984-2009) and Muir.
UD men’s soccer coach Ian Hennessy, who was on the selection committee, said Ziady’s financial background was valuable but not the sole reason he impressed those who interviewed him.
“In the modern day of athletics, it’s a necessity, it’s a must-have,” Hennessy said of having fiscal experience. “There was no single driving force about the candidates. It really was a combination of different influences, and that was something that appealed to our president and the committee, someone who can say ‘no’ when he has to say ‘no’ and say ‘yes’ when he has to. It wasn’t a defining criteria. It’s just a must-have in modern athletics.”
Hennessy was an assistant coach at BC before being hired by Delaware in 2006 and called Ziady someone coaches, fans and alumni “will relate to very well.”
Delaware fields 21 varsity sports – more than any other Colonial Athletic Association school except William & Mary – including 13 women’s and eight men’s teams composed of just over 600 students. UD had $35.2 million in athletic expenses and revenue during the 2010-11 school year, according to U.S. Department of Education Equity in Athletics data.
Some have wondered if Delaware should consider a move up from the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), in which it has a national reputation, to the Football Bowl Subdivision. No FBS conferences have formally invited the Blue Hens, but it is known high-ranking Delaware officials discussed such a possibility this year with the Mid-American Conference, which is not widely viewed as an ideal destination.
Ziady pledged to monitor both situations diligently and do what’s best for Delaware. Of the FBS, he said, “it’s a tremendous, tremendous investment to go in that direction.”
Delaware discontinued men’s cross country and track and field, citing economic and Title IX gender-equity concerns, and added women’s golf after that 2010-11 school year. Last week, CAA rival Towson announced it would eliminate two mainstream men’s sports, soccer and baseball, the latest casualties in the fight for economic resources.
“The economic challenges that we all face across the landscape of college athletics is the same everywhere, [even in] the five big conferences that everyone thinks has all the money,” Ziady said. “It’s going to be a challenge, no question about it, but we’re going to focus on the experience of our student-athletes, we’re going to invest in the programs that we have – we have no intention of dropping any further programs – and we’re going to provide the support necessary so those sports can be successful as best we can.”
Among Ziady’s challenges will be repairing relationships with what some have called a “fractured fan base,” resulting from season ticket and parking cost increases in football that have negatively affected attendance. He also must help lead fundraising efforts for overdue and long-planned facility improvements and other projects.
“It’s going to be an ongoing challenge,” Ziady said of connecting with UD fans. “Obviously, I need to come down here. I need to spend some time listening. I need to spend some time learning what the environment is down here. … I’m going to rely on [his staff] for their knowledge of the situation here in Delaware, and I’m going to be out in the streets with them every day.”
Written by Kevin Tresolini, The News Journal