New athletic director looks to reach alumni

by Evan Sporer / Beacon Staff • March 20, 2014

Patricia Nicol will take over as Emerson's athletic director May 19.
Photo courtesy of Souther Connecticut State University Athletics
Patricia Nicol will take over as Emerson's athletic director May 19.
Photo courtesy of Souther Connecticut State University Athletics

As Emerson’s new athletic director, Patricia Nicol said she’ll have to wait until she officially begins her duties May 19 to really have any concrete plans for changing the department. She did, however, emphasize the importance of alumni relations. 

“You need to develop a very strong alumni base to move any department forward, especially athletics, because that is one of your more visible entities on campus,” said Nicol. “It’s my intention to reach out and bring that base in.” 

Announced Tuesday as Emerson’s new athletic director, Nicol will have the chance to do just that. 

“Any time you walk into a new situation you really have to come in and listen very closely,” she said, “hear what people are saying, assess the situation, and make decisions based on the philosophy of the institution, the Division 3 philosophy, and stay in line with the core values of the institution.” 

The vacancy was created nearly two years ago, when then-athletic director Kristin Parnell resigned after complaints and demands from current student-athletes called for her to be stripped of her position. 

In the 668 days since Parnell left the college, the director position was filled on an interim basis by Stanford Nance, who will now become the senior associate athletic director, according to a release sent out by Dean of Students Ronald Ludman on Tuesday. 

“[Nicol] brings a very strong record of achievement as an athletic administrator that will serve the College well as we seek to strengthen our athletics and recreation programs, paying particular attention to our efforts to enhance the student-athlete experience,” wrote Ludman in a statement to the Beacon. Ludman oversees the athletic department and chaired the search committee charged with finding a new director. 

Nicol was one of four final candidates for the job, including Nance, who were all interviewed in February by the search committee. That selection group was composed of two current student-athletes, members of the athletic department, college administrators, and alumni. 

One of those on the committee was Tatiana Motavalli-Oliner, a senior softball player, who also is the annual giving assistant for the college. Motavalli-Oliner said Nicol was a great fit because she’s the parent of a former NEWMAC athlete, she has been an athletic administrator for a long period of time, and she herself is a former student-athlete. 

“None of our other candidates had that unique a perspective with that many angles,” she said. 

Nicol comes to Emerson after having been the AD at Southern Connecticut for 10 years and working as an administrator in its athletic department for 15 in total. During that time, she was a finalist for the Division 2 Athletic Director of the Year in 2010 and in 2013 was selected as a recipient of the distinguished alumnus award from the University of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island House of Representatives.

“My impression of her is that she’s a knowledgeable, experienced athletic director,” said Mike Brown, a faculty representative who served on the search committee. “To me, she was genuine, she knows what she’s doing, she’s an experienced athletic director, she understands [Division 3], and I think she’s a good fit.”