The Colgate Scene
September 2005

Passion and commitment

[Photos by Timothy D. Sofranko]

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Director of Athletics Dave Roach sat down with the Scene to talk about his first year and what is on the horizon for Colgate athletics.

What attracted you to Colgate?
Number one was President Chopp and her vision for Colgate, and the ability to interact with her and the rest of the senior staff. It's important to have somebody at the top who has the same belief in athletics and what it brings to the table that I do.

I've never felt like I work for a living, and you want to get up every morning and have a passion for what you do. That obviously starts with the people you are working with on a daily basis. The relationship with President Chopp and Lyle Roelofs [provost and dean of the faculty] has been fantastic.

The academics combined with athletics, which I was very used to at Brown, and Colgate going with athletic scholarships for the first time, were also very attractive.


What do you think sets Colgate apart in the landscape of intercollegiate athletics today?
One day I asked Justin Spencer, who graduated this year and was on the hockey team and a physics major, "How did you decide to come to Colgate?" He said, "I could have gone to Maine or some other hockey school, but I really wanted a great education. Colgate was the school that gave me what I was looking for academically, and I could play Division I hockey." I think that is what sets us apart. And now with the ability to give Division I scholarships in some sports, that combination is special.

Also, people have a tremendous love for Colgate. Everybody loves their alma mater, but here it seems more special, and different. I can't really explain it but you can certainly feel it.


What have been your main goals and accomplishments in your first year?
My overriding goal was to come in, listen, and educate myself -- and then evaluate it all and figure out the best way to go. I look at myself as a renovator and a builder. We need to always be asking ourselves, what can we do better? What is the next thing we want to do?

I think we have done much of that, and now we have assembled an administrative staff prepared to move Colgate athletics to new levels. Our main goal is for every student-athlete to reach their full academic and athletic potential. I say two things to the administrative staff: one, you really should have a passion for what you're doing, and two, the student-athlete will always come first. I think we have an atmosphere that is positive, a staff that wants to work hard and do great things for student-athletes and coaches.

Coming in, I knew that the coaching staff at Colgate was very good and had done some remarkable things with limited resources. My responsibility and goal is to make sure that we provide those coaches with the support and the funds to continue to do the job that they're doing and to improve upon it.

We signed an agreement with Daktronics Sports Marketing to do new football and soccer scoreboards, retrofit other scoreboards, and do some things to dress up all of our athletic venues.

We also are computerizing our ticket office. Colgate alumni can now buy a hockey ticket over the Internet in California and pick it up at the ticket office.

How does Colgate help students balance the scholar-athlete commitment?
We fully understand that the number one reason everybody is here is to get an education, but when you go to college there are three things: academics, athletics, and social life. We preach (if preach is the right word) that if you want to do all three you can, as long as you keep them in that order. To compete at the Division I level takes a lot of time and commitment.

Our relationship with the faculty is excellent, and that is something we want to maintain. I have met more faculty members in my first year than I did in five years at my last institution, from having coffee in the village, to going to meetings, to running into them at the fitness center. It's great to go to the Colgate Inn and see faculty members having dinner with their classes.

I tell recruits, if you come to Colgate, you're going to be taught by outstanding faculty, not graduate assistants. There are a lot who, once they get to know the student-athletes in their classroom, are going to develop a relationship with them. Look at Emily Braseth. Professors were coming to women's basketball games because they had her in class and she was so outgoing and such a great leader that they wanted to go watch her play.


Granted, it's early in the implementation process, but how has the new athletic scholarships program impacted the university so far?
We've had great communication and cooperation on campus with implementing this program, but it's a work in progress. The true impact will be measured after four years, when the scholarship sports will have had the ability to recruit for four classes.

This first year, from an academic point of view, the recruited scholarship athletes came in with a slightly higher academic profile. Athletically, just as examples, in women's soccer, Franny Iaccuzzi was the Patriot League Rookie of the year and our leading scorer. Tyler Burton, leading scorer on men's ice hockey, clearly had an effect on our team.

The word is starting to get out, and as time goes on and applicants realize that besides a great education, you can get great athletics, more people will look at Colgate.

We want to manage expectations, because on the one hand there are people on campus who think it's great just because we're going to get better students. On the other end, alumni ask, when are we going to win a national title? We need to be somewhere in the middle. We also need to understand that scholarships are just one part of the equation. There are other things we need to strive for to give your student-athletes a great experience and be a model Division I program.


So what else does it take to be a model Division I program?
For one, it's what you have facility-wise. Our facilities are the next piece of the puzzle. We need to take a look at what we want to provide both for student-athletes and the general population. We're finishing up a study of the Reid Athletic Center that asks, what do we need to bring us into the 21st century? Reid was open in the mid-1950s when Colgate was an all-male institution. That alone tells you that there are some things in there that need to be remodeled, renovated, and brought up to speed.


Do you plan any new alumni-related initiatives?
Some of our booster groups, such as the Maroon Council and Silver Puck Club, have been around for a long time, and are well organized with a president and an executive committee or a board. Those groups raise significant dollars to support the football and hockey programs, and feature very popular special events. They can also offer career networking opportunities for alumni. We need to move every group in that direction, to make sure that we are raising the amount of money needed to support each sport and give alumni of other sports similar chances to get together. Putting the fundraising more on the athletics administration, the advancement office, and volunteers will also take pressure off of the coaches to raise money.


How will Colgate athletics be different in five years?
Hopefully, people can say we have student-athletes who are great academically and athletically and are given every opportunity to reach their full potential.

I would look at how we serve people -- not just the entire student population at Colgate, whether it's varsity sports, or recreation, or intramurals, but also how we serve the people who are interested in Colgate sports, whether alumni or others. That we have more information getting out through the web, that we're on TV and radio more. When people come to a game or a contest, they will say, wow, that was fun. We want to come back for more, we want to bring our kids here.

We need to elevate how people look at Colgate athletics. For example, if you can walk into a store in the village and pick up a free ticket on the counter, that tells you the value of that game isn't all that great. So that's another change we're making. Even if we charge a little bit, and we run events more professionally and it's fun, people will say they do have value.

I hope people would say that we've kept the right ideals. That we are a model program in all aspects.


How is the athletics department strengthening ties with the local community?
The best thing that we did is the adoption of Hamilton Central School's elementary school. Every team has a classroom. For example, men's soccer had their fifth grade class over here and they went bowling with them and played dodge ball on a Sunday afternoon. One of my daughters is in the fifth grade, and she had a blast. We want the coach and the athletes to develop a relationship so that the teacher can call up and say, "Hey, we're doing a project in history; can a couple of students come over and help?"

We've also done clinics and special events such as Girls and Women in Sport Week. On a Sunday afternoon youngsters came to women's basketball and women's ice hockey games and got autographs and met the players.

What is your favorite sport and why?
Actually, they're all my favorite. Anybody who plays intercollegiate athletics at Colgate deserves our attention, no matter what sport. With 25 sports, I can't go to every game, but I try to go to as many as I can. I may not be very boisterous -- I keep it inside -- but I get connected pretty quick.


What are your outside interests?
I've been married 27 years, and we have three daughters. That obviously is number one. I work out every morning, whether it's swimming or the elliptical machine in the fitness center. I try to take advantage of Seven Oaks, especially with the fifth green being right behind my backyard. Golf is the one thing I do where I don't think about anything else. I stink, but to go out there on a nice day with good people is a great way to spend four hours.

I'm into books about business and leadership. My favorite right now is Good to Great by Jim Collins. I like it because it talks about having a passion for what you do, having a vision for where you want to go.


Is there anything else you want to say?
For me, the change has been terrific. I talk a lot about having fun and that's the way I do things. Neither of my parents graduated from high school. My father was a steamfitter and my mother worked in an electronics factory. I'm not sure they can say that, professionally, they had a lot of fun. I've been lucky.

My goal for student-athletes during their four years here is that they participate in something really meaningful. For me, whether you win a championship game or not, if you get to that level, it makes you as successful as the team that wins it. Last fall, when field hockey hosted the Patriot League Tournament and women's soccer hosted at the same time, women's soccer won and went on to the NCAA tournament and field hockey played American and lost in the championship game. I was just as proud and excited for field hockey as I was for women's soccer. A lot of it should be the journey in getting to that point.

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