Alison Fitzgerald, the assistant athletic director for compliance and life skills, has announced that she will be leaving Manhattan at the end of the semester.
Fitzgerald, who has been with the athletic department for three years, will be returning to her hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. The move, she states, is largely for financial reasons.
“I have law school loans and I did all of school myself. I absolutely love New York City but right now working in higher education and living in New York City just isn’t sustainable,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald began her career in athletic compliance during her undergraduate years at the University of Wisconsin. At first, Fitzgerald was unsure about how to consolidate her interests of law, history and athletics. Her advisor suggested that she become a sports agent and go to law school.
Fitzgerald’s love for athletics was first sparked when she young. Her parents, also Madison, Wisconsin natives, have held basketball season tickets since before she was born.
“Those are pretty much my memories of going to basketball games as a kid and that excitement,” Fitzgerald said. “[Sports] was what made me excited and passionate.”
When she began her search for a law school, she discovered a program at Marquette University that offered a sports law program. Fitzgerald earned her juris doctorate from Marquette in 2008 and became a member of the state bar of Wisconsin.
During her college career Fitzgerald interned at the University of Wisconsin Parkside and with the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Office of Government Relations.
“It was a total life-changing, career-changing experience … I went to actual hearings at the Capitol on drugs and athletics and that was where my interest lied,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald previously worked at the University of Illinois at Springfield and Barry University in Miami, both of which are Division II institutions.
“My hope was always to get back to Division I and to be in New York City,” she said.
Upon her arrival at Manhattan College in 2014, Noah LeFevre was just named the director of athletics, succeeding Robert Byrnes who had been at the head of the athletic department for 26 years.
“I knew that the athletic department was going through a transition when I started, so I knew that there was a lot of change. I knew that it was going to be a challenge because based on the previous schools I’ve worked at I’ve always been the only person in compliance and I knew the challenges that departments faced when they are understaffed. So it wasn’t anything that was a shock or a surprise to me,” Fitzgerald said.
During her time at Manhattan, Fitzgerald has also been the advisor of the student athlete advisory committee (SAAC) allowing her to work directly with student athletes on campus. Last year she helped SAAC achieve the second most community service hours in an NCAA competition.
“My interest has always been in working with student athletes. Compliance is really what got me into athletics but I don’t want to sit behind my computer doing paperwork all day. I want to actually work with students,” Fitzgerald said.
Madison Arndt, a member of the women’s track and field team and the current president of Manhattan’s SAAC, stated how much Fitzgerald has influenced student athletes on campus.
“I think, from a student athlete perspective, she’s made the student athletes a lot more comfortable with being who they are, being comfortable with being athletes and flaunting the fact that we’re athletes and we get to have these experiences that other people may not be able to have and be able to sell ourselves to those job opportunities, and she’s really just made us closer as a Jasper family,” Arndt said.
Arndt said that one of the things she will miss most about Fitzgerald is her open-door policy.
“You can go into her office anytime and she is there sitting smiling, bubbly and I am really going to miss that because that is the atmosphere that helps invite athletes in making them know that they are welcome anytime,” Arndt said.
Fitzgerald, along with compliance, has many responsibilities within the athletic department. She attends as many events as she can, including SAAC meetings and functions, as well as doing oversight duty for all of the basketball games.
“College athletics really never stops. I used to make an effort to not check my email after a certain time … but even now it’s constant because students don’t turn off at five or six p.m. When they have their free time it’s ten p.m. and they’re asking me questions. It’s just that you want to support everyone as much as possible and there’s just so much going on on college campuses besides athletics,” Fitzgerald said.
The long, erratic hours of college athletics paired with the financial issues of working in higher education both play a large part in Fitzgerald’s reason for leaving the college.
“It’s not that I am looking to go to a different school, it’s not that I’m looking to make another move. I am genuinely just taking a break from life. I am going to go home, I am going to live with my parents for the first time since I was 19, and I am going to work a low stress job – something that is more nine-to-five and something that I can just focus on other aspects of my life,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald chose to leave the department at the end of this semester because she feels confident that the current faculty will effectively fulfill the needs of student-athletes.
“Before, I always felt like I had this duty to the college and to the students to really not so much protect but just to look out for their best interest. Now I trust that we have the right people in place now. I think Marianne [Reilly] is fantastic and all of the administrators are all on the same page and want what’s best and now I can kind of go and take care of myself more,” Fitzgerald said.