Big East Administrator Replaces
Hathaway as Perkins' Deputy
Four years ago, a proud parent composed a letter to his daughter as she embarked on her college career. "For now, you're going to UConn as Tom McElroy's daughter," wrote the senior associate commissioner of the Big East Conference, "but in a very short time, I'll be known as Kelly McElroy's father."
The tables are about to turn again. Kelly McElroy graduated in May with a degree in business. Now it's dad who's starting a new chapter of his life at UConn.
Thomas McElroy joined the University Aug. 31 as deputy associate director of athletics, replacing Jeff Hathaway, who left after 11 years at UConn to become athletic director at Colorado State.
McElroy, 49, of Cumberland, R.I., began his professional career in alumni services and public relations at St. Bonaventure University, a Catholic university in upstate New York.
He says his own athletic prowess took him only as far as the junior varsity level in high school. He soon realized he was better suited to writing, and went on to earn a degree in journalism at St. Bonaventure in 1974. He also earned an M.S. in education administration and supervision from St. Bonaventure in 1978.
In 1981, he accepted a job as communications director for the fledgling Big East Conference organization.
He expected to return to a college post within two or three years. Instead, for the past two decades he has built a stellar career with the major college athletic conference, in communications, administration, and policy-making.
His accomplishments have included building the largest college sports television network in the country - first in basketball, then in football.
"I got in on the ground floor of the organization," McElroy says. The Big East was developing so fast, he notes, he didn't need to change jobs in order to find new professional challenges and opportunities.
McElroy, who will continue to represent the Big East on the NCAA Division I Championships and Competition Cabinet, says he will apply the lessons he's learned during his years with the Big East to benefit UConn.
"It's been like a 20-year Ph.D. program," he says. "There are 14 Big East universities to learn from. We can take the best from each one and find a fit at UConn for some of those success stories."
He says he's looking forward to having closer contact with student-athl etes. "Watching kids grow and develop - you don't get that in a conference office," he says.
There's something else he's missed. "Working for a conference," he says, "you can't root for a particular team." No doubt the Huskies will soon change that.
The past 11 years, under the leadership of athletics director Lew Perkins, have been an incredible run for the UConn Division of Athletics, marked by four national championships, the addition of three new women's sports, and the upgrade of the football program from Division IAA to Division IA. For the past nine years there has been a 99 percent academic retention rate among student-athletes, and currently more than 40 percent have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.
"The success we've had is because we've had a team approach," says Perkins, who brought Hathaway with him to UConn from the University of Maryland in 1980. "Jeff's been my right-hand person. He gave me the ability to do a lot of things outside - raise money, for example, and negotiate for the football stadium - knowing that the internal business was being taken care of."
Perkins says he expects the team approach to continue with McElroy. "Tom is a seasoned veteran," he says. "He knows Connecticut and he knows the University. I expect him to jump in with both feet."
Perkins says tasks that will face McElroy from the start include coordination of the Rentschler Field project, building a new multi-sport practice facility, and continuing the enhancement of Gampel Pavilion. There's also the transition of football to Division IA and the Big East Conference; maintaining the basketball program at the highest level; and ensuring gender equity in compliance with Title IX. Perhaps most important, McElroy is charged with building strong relationships with a variety of constituencies on campus.
In that area above all, he will be taking up the baton from Hathaway, who worked closely with faculty and staff from many different departments and helped establish the athletic program as an integral part of the University.
Hathaway says in addition to the friendships and relationships he has valued with faculty and staff at UConn, he treasures his interaction with the student-athletes. "I've had the chance to work with some incredible young men and women," he says. "They are the heart and soul of the athletics program."