Marquette names new athletics director
It was still early in December when Larry Williams took the podium, but Marquette’s new athletics director summed up his feelings about his new gig with true joy: “It’s like Christmas Day.”
The former NFL lineman and alumnus of — get ready — Notre Dame, where he played football, said he was “off the charts” excited about joining Marquette. Then he touched on a soft spot that endeared him instantly, describing a memory “seared into my mind” of watching the “crazy coach” and the team with untucked jerseys win the 1977 NCAA championship.
OK, that helped this crowd get over the Notre Dame thing, which President Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., said was also a wee bit of a hurdle for certain members of the search committee, specifically Allie McGuire, Arts ’73, son of the crazy coach, and Glenn “Doc” Rivers, Arts ’85, a former Marquette basketball player and current university trustee. The search committee, which included Nursing Dean Margaret Callahan and Matt Mitten, law professor and director of the Sports Law Clinic, spent months identifying the right candidate to lead intercollegiate athletics at a time that could encompass a realignment of the Big East Conference, among other changes.
Williams came to Marquette from the University of Portland, where he served as athletics director since 2004. Under his leadership, the Portland Pilots won a NCAA championship in women’s soccer in 2005 and earned top 10 finishes in men’s cross country and first-ever national rankings in men’s basketball, baseball and tennis.
While Marquette conducted its due diligence on him, Williams said he also did his homework to gauge whether this is the right place to be. He talked with people who know the university well, he said, and “the way they gushed was compelling and inspiring.”
Williams was attracted by Marquette’s athletics tradition and its values of integrity and excellence. And it didn’t hurt that Marquette student-athletes play to packed houses. “The great following that is the Marquette nation is a true treasure,” he said.
Williams plans to get well-acquainted with all Marquetters. He will sit down with coaches and athletes to hear what they consider to be program strengths and challenges and reach out to the university and alumni communities for their take on perceived opportunities.
“We’ll create plans that take full advantage of every one of our assets,” he said, “and address every one of our challenges.” — JMM
Marquette’s new athletics director begins his tenure following investigations in spring 2011 into two alleged sexual assaults involving student-athletes, and the university’s acknowledgment that policies and procedures for responding to sexual violence needed strengthening. The university has overhauled policies and procedures. As part of the changes instituted by newly appointed president Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., the athletics director is now a vice president reporting directly to the president.