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Director of Athletics Patricia Meiser to Retire, effective July 31

Posted 02/04/2014
Posted by David Isgur

University of Hartford Director of Athletics and Special Assistant to the President
Patricia H. Meiser has announced she will retire effective July 31, 2014.

“My career in college athletics, which began in the early 1970’s and has spanned four decades, began as a student-athlete and coach,” said Meiser. “My fondest memories go back to the many students and coaches who have passed my way. My 44 year tenure at Penn State, Connecticut and Hartford has given me wonderful memories and friendships which will last a lifetime. It has been both thrilling and challenging to have been part of this country’s transition in intercollegiate athletics. From awarding the first women’s basketball scholarship in 1974 at Penn State, to taking a senior leadership position at Connecticut during the mid 1980’s to the mid 1990’s as the Huskies emerged as a national powerhouse and, finally, to leading a fledgling Division I school to regional and national prominence, have brought many challenges and much success. Having had the opportunity to work at the three distinct levels of Division I intercollegiate athletics, has given me a perspective very few administrators in this country have.”

Meiser arrived at Hartford in 1993 as only the 13th female athletics director at the NCAA Division I level and the third athletics director at the University of Hartford in the Division I era. Under President Humphrey Tonkin, Meiser was named Director and Special Assistant to the President in 1997.

Under her leadership, athletics teams developed both on the fields and, at the same time, developed a strong focus on academic excellence and community engagement. Over her 21 years at Hartford, athletic teams have won many America East Championships and participated in NCAA championship competition. Many individual student-athletes have earned America East Conference and All American distinction.

In 2003 Meiser spearheaded fundraising efforts for Phase I of the Home Field Advantage Campaign. The campaign resulted in the construction of Fiondella Baseball Field, a new softball field and renovation of Al-Marzook Field at Alumni Stadium with expanded seating and concession stands for lacrosse and soccer.

The hallmark of her tenure at Hartford has been to foster a culture of collegiate athletics based on excellence, integrity and a balanced student-athlete experience. Her leadership at the University of Hartford has been marked by a commitment to NCAA rules compliance, fiscal conservatism, increased visibility through corporate partnership,
community engagement and athletic success. University of Hartford student-athletes have won the prestigious America East Academic Cup three times – 2006 and most recently, back to back in 2011-12 and 2012-13. The Hawks continue to excel in the classroom and finished this past fall with the highest ever cumulative grade point average ever of 3.27.

With the hiring of coaches of integrity and commitment as the core of a winning intercollegiate athletics program, Meiser’s appointment of Jennifer Rizzotti in 1999 represented the beginning of regional and national success in women’s basketball. Rizzotti was hired as the youngest Division I coach in the country and came to the Hawks with no prior coaching experience. Men’s basketball under fourth year Head Coach John Gallagher has surprised the America East with teams which regularly contend for championship honors. The revitalization of men’s soccer under Connecticut native Tom Poitras and men’s lacrosse under Peter Lawrence have also challenged for championship
honors. The ever improving profile of Hartford’s storied baseball program under new head coach Justin Blood speaks to a solid future. Wethersfield native and head coach of women’s soccer John Natale, and men’s golf coach, former Hartford alum Pete Stankevich, have kept Hartford programs visible and prominent in the national scene, not only producing winning teams but also nationally prominent individual performers.

“Pat Meiser is an icon in her field, recognized here at the University, within our conference, within our state, and across the country for what she has done for student-athletes, coaches, and athletics professionals,” said Walter Harrison, president of the University of Hartford. “She has always been a strong believer in the role of athletics in shaping young people’s lives and an outspoken champion of academic success as a major component of the student-athlete experience. She has been widely and publicly recognized as a pioneer of Title IX and opportunities for women, but fundamentally she has always been about opportunities for everyone. She has left her impact here at the University and everywhere she has been.”

Meiser’s arrival at Hartford was preceded by 11 years at the University of Connecticut where she served as the Senior Women’s Administrator from 1983 to 1993. During 1990, she was appointed Interim Senior Associate by President Harry Hartley. During this 11 year period, Meiser served as senior administrator aiding three different athletics directors - John Toner, Todd Turner and Lew Perkins. The 1980’s were a time of regional and national emergence for the UConn Huskies with the hiring of both Geno Auriemma and Jim Calhoun in the mid 1980’s.

In addition to long range planning and oversight of 16 sports, Meiser oversaw personnel at Connecticut during her 11 years. She chaired most of the search committees, including the one which hired Coach Auriemma in the spring of 1984. She also served as Chair of Connecticut’s Gender Equity Committee and was the athletics representative to President John Casteen’s Task Force on Athletics in 1988. The Task Force on Athletics, created by then new President John Casteen, fostered a complete review of the status of UConn athletics. The upgraded commitment through the task force review, along with the hiring of Auriemma and Calhoun, are often viewed as the actions which vaulted UConn athletics into the national scene. Meiser developed and implemented the University of Connecticut’s drug testing program, initiated and developed the comprehensive compliance program under then NCAA President and UConn Director John Toner and initiated and developed the first University of Connecticut Captain’s Council.

Meiser’s Penn State years (1970-81) were also marked with unprecedented success at the national level, where she served as the head coach of women’s basketball. With the awarding of the first women’s basketball scholarship in 1974, the Nittany Lions emerged as a consistent top program, finishing as high as 13th in the national polls. Her overall won-loss record was 92-55 and she was a finalist for the Wade Trophy Coach of the Year in 1978. Meiser also coached the Gold medal winning team at the National Sports Festival in 1979. Meiser was an original voting member of the original Top 20 women’s basketball poll, served as tournament director of the 1976 AIAW National Championship, serving as its chair and working with the national committee to expand tournament championships
opportunities. Meiser will be inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in April 2014.

Meiser has served on many NCAA, Big East and America East Committees throughout her 44 year career including the NCAA Certification Committee (1992-95), the NCAA Special Committee to Review Financial Conditions in Intercollegiate Athletics (1992-93), NCAA Soccer Rules Committee and the NCAA Professional Sport Liaison Committee (1992-95). She has served as the Chair of the America East Directors Executive Committee on multiple occasions and has also served as the national President of NACDA (National Association of College Directors Association), Division I-III, formerly called I-AAA and represented Athletic Directors Association as well as a member of its Executive Board.

Meiser’s dedication to the State has been rich and meaningful. She continues to serve on the Executive Committee of the Connecticut Convention and Sports Bureau (CTCSB), and has served as member of the Board of Directors of Special Olympics, the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame (CWHF), Co-Chaired the 14th Annual CWHF Gala celebrating Connecticut’s Women in Sports Celebration and served on the Governor’s Partnership on Drugs.

Meiser is a two time winner (2006, 2010) of the NACDA Division I Athletics Director of the Year Award (Northeast Region), was named one of 25 “Title IX Trailblazers” nationally by NACWAA (National Association of Women Athletic Administrators) in 2012, a “Connecticut Woman of Merit” by Connecticut Girl Scouts in June 2002, named a Street
and Smith Top 50 Sport Business Women in America, a 2012 CWEALF (Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund) “Maria Miller Stewart Award” winner, and recently received the prestigious 2013 NCCJ (National Conference for Community and Justice) award.

Meiser earned an MBA from Penn State in 1986, an M.Ed from Penn State in 1971 and a BS from West Chester in 1969. She was named an Associate Professor and granted tenure at Penn State in 1979.

The University will begin a national search for her replacement immediately.