About to start his fourth year as GW’s athletic director, Patrick Nero is coming off of the department’s most successful season since he arrived.
The accomplishments this year have added up: The NCAA recognized 15 of 19 teams for academic excellence, GW won the Atlantic 10 Conference’s first ever community service challenge and a handful of the 23 athletic programs had their best seasons in program history.
But Nero, who recently started his tenure as chair of the A-10 athletics director council, plans to stay just as active this summer as he did during the academic year, working incessantly to capitalize on last season’s triumphs.
The first month is all about evaluation.
Nero has asked the head coaches and sports administrators of each athletic program to write a report about its season, which he will sit down and review with them one-on-one.
He is splitting his focus between internal improvements and expanding the department’s reach. After multiple programs squeaked into the national spotlight last year, Nero aims to take advantage of the newfound attention and devise strategies for further building up pride at home.
With an emphasis on men’s and women’s basketball, two of the most successful programs last season, Nero is reaching out to non-conference schools in the hopes of creating buzz about GW sports.
In late April, men’s basketball head coach Mike Lonergan announced a home-and-home agreement with the University of Virginia, last year’s Atlantic Coast Conference regular season champions. Then on June 9, Lonergan announced another home-and-home agreement with Big 10 member Penn State. GW’s home matchup with the Nittany Lions in 2015 will be the first time GW hosts a member of the Big 10 since 1986.
Along with games against big-name teams comes the opportunity for publicity. Nero said the men’s basketball team made 25 television appearances last year, on channels ranging from the CBS Sports Network to ESPN.
“That’s really big for us in terms of building pride and building school spirit,” Nero said, adding that the high-profile teams promise to attract larger crowds to the Smith Center.
After posting its most successful home record in years, men’s basketball sold out three of its last four games. The crowd grew so large at some matches that Smith Center staff had to turn some students away.
“It’s a great problem to have,” Nero said. “In the offseason you spend your time saying OK what are the things you want to improve, what are the solutions you want to find and how do you meet those solutions within the budget that you have.”
To accommodate for the rising demand, GW will try to create an inviting atmosphere for fans with a more efficient seating system and concessions. Nero said he is working with several companies to add a feature to GW’s app that allows students to pre-order concessions or have them delivered.
But while GW’s most popular team grabs his attention, Nero is also making time to focus on the department’s newest programs: diving, and track and field. Nero is still searching for a diving coach, but plans to bring him or her on board by midsummer.
While the diving program waits for a coach, track and field is looking for a roster. Nero said cross-country runners will compete in track competitions, and the rest of the team will include undergraduate students and fifth-year athletes.