by ANTHONY CAPOTE and DANIEL YNFANTE, Editors
O’Connor will lead the athletic department in the search for a new athletic director.
Tom O’Connor has over 40 years of experience in collegiate athletics, including 20 years as the athletic director of George Mason University before retiring in 2014.
It isn’t hard to understand why Manhattan College sought him out as the interim athletic director after Noah LeFevre’s departure. However, what is more interesting is O’Connor’s own decision to come out of retirement.
“I had a great conversation with the people here at Manhattan and it was something that intrigued me,” O’Connor said. “I knew about the history and tradition of the school. … With that in mind, and I had some time to help somebody out, it just seemed like a very good fit. It has been a very good fit … All my expectations of what I thought this school is all about have exceeded my expectations.”
O’Connor said that when he was approached by the college, he felt good about the decision to help run the athletics program until a new candidate could be found.
According to Richard Satterlee, the vice president for student life, O’Connor will not only be assisting in the day-to-day operations of the athletic department, but his private consulting firm will also be helping in the search for a new, full-time athletic director.
“He’ll be assisting us to find the right leader so that was attractive,” Satterlee said about O’Connor. “It’s really something that we haven’t defined yet, a timetable for the search, possibly the search committee … It’s really too soon, but we’ll certainly be working to establish that in the near future and I think he will certainly be able to assist us with his years of experience and his consulting firm.”
O’Connor has an excellent track record for not only improving athletic performance, but in building an academic culture amongst students. He considers himself a mentor to many of the students placed under his care. While serving as athletic director at George Mason, his student-athletes excelled in the classroom, highlighted by four Patriots who received National CoSIDA Academic All-America recognition.
“Just an ideal person to lead our department and to be a mentor to our student athletes,” Satterlee said about O’Connor. “Both athletically and academically. He had four academic All-Americans at George Mason so that’s a really exciting piece for us because our emphasis is on the total student-athlete experience, and the classroom is so important.”
The New Jersey native is a grandfather of ten, and said that Manhattan’s proximity to his family also played a factor in his decision to come back to work. Since his retirement in 2014, O’Connor has spent much time with his family, but saw the opportunity to help Manhattan by accepting the position.
O’Connor also said he isn’t concerned for how long the search for a new athletic director takes and that he is more concerned with accomplishing a variety of goals in his tenure. Among those issues he will address are matters relating to infrastructure, organizational charts, and continuing to improve academics.
“There’s no timetable on the search so with that in mind, whatever is needed to be done to keep moving forward with the program is important in my mind,” O’Connor said. “I’m not looking to say ‘I have one foot out the door. Let’s go back to what I was doing. …’ I’m looking more at it as what needs to be done, rather than a timeframe.”
In his illustrious career, O’Connor, who also served as the athletic director at Loyola (Md.) University, Santa Clara University and St. Bonaventure University, chair of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship committee, and president of Athletic Solutions Consulting. His latest title will be athletic director at Manhattan College, replacing LeFevre, who had been named to position in 2014, following the retirement of Robert J. Byrnes.
In almost two years at the school, LeFevre actively sought improvements for the athletic department. Among the many changes under his helm were the redesigns of the basketball and volleyball courts, the replacement of the women’s tennis program with women’s rowing, the creation of a new broadcast studio, and the partnership with Learfield Sports.
It is unclear what led to LeFevre’s departure and O’Connor’s subsequent hiring. However, Satterlee in both a press release and an interview on Jan. 19, expressed his gratitude for LeFevre’s accomplishments at the helm.
“We really appreciate his contribution,” Satterlee said about LeFevre, “and at the same time look forward to Mr. O’Connor providing leadership for the department and moving us forward.”
O’Connor has only been in charge since Jan.11, but in his short amount of time on campus, has been impressed with Manhattan College.
“Everybody I met has been absolutely wonderful,” O’Connor said. “I know that they’re very dedicated to moving forward with the program. I just have marveled at the fact that people are not afraid to work, they have good ethics, a high sense of integrity, and it’s nice to be around people … It’s people that make a college and people that make an athletic program.”