Athletics Director discusses stadium, stars, success

Athletics Director discusses stadium, stars, success

Athletics Director Dave O’Brien has a message for Husky fans: They shouldn’t rest on their laurels after dominating America East play in the past. Instead they should be focused on what the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) has to offer: stronger athletes, tougher competition and a larger spotlight.

“When we made the move to the CAA it was a significant jump in our level of competition,” O’Brien said. “Our last four years in the America East we won an awful lot of championships and were very competitive. The move to the Colonial is a significant jump; my suggestion to everybody was that it would take a recruiting generation, five years, for Northeastern to be able to reasonably expect to be competitive across the board.”

Northeastern exceeded expectations in its first year in the CAA, with the field hockey, men’s basketball and baseball teams proving to be very competitive, O’Brien said. However, the first year has seen the departure of the men’s and women’s basketball coaches and a handful of athletes, including Jose Juan Barea of the men’s basketball team, who will likely be selected in the NBA draft, that have defined their programs during their time on Huntington Avenue.

“We’ve come across some coaching transitions and some student athletes have left,” O’Brien said. “A new philosophy comes in as far as the type of athlete and style of play a coach wants. In my view I think the next year will be a little bit of a struggle. It’s still early in our transition and I am optimistic we can continue to achieve. I think, realistically, it will be a few more teams before we have enough depth with CAA quality athletes for us to be competitive across the board.”

The move into the CAA brings enormous potential for Northeastern’s athletics to become a national name and to complement the school as a whole.

“[A major reason for moving] was simply to complement the university’s marketing efforts in the mid-Atlantic region,” O’Brien said. “Northeastern wanted athletics to be competitive in that region to help the recruiting efforts of the university.”

O’Brien contends that to be competitive you need two things in your athletics: scholarships and quality facilities. What Northeastern lacks in facilities it makes up with the intangibles of its campus and the city of Boston, O’Brien said.

But is there a shorter commute in sight for Husky fans who don’t want to wait for the Saturday morning shuttle to Parsons field?

“We haven’t really invested in athletic facilities, we recognize the need for new facilities, the students recognize the need to make it happen,” O’Brien said. “It’s on everyone’s radar screen and we’re working on that. We’re confident there is going to be a multi-purpose facility in the future, but the timetable is unclear.”

The 2006-07 year will bring challenges to Husky athletics, as new faces will rise to prominence in the absence of recognizable ones, a constant cycle in college athletics.

“It’s always advantageous to have a star; it always get you notoriety,” O’Brien said.

“Each era is going to be a little different. When I arrived here four years ago nobody knew who Barea was, but over time he became quite a celebrity. The beauty of college athletics is there’s going be a new generation of stars, we just don’t know who they are right now. It’s a cyclical movement that’s fun and always hard to predict.”

Sept. 1 looms as a significant date for Northeastern athletics, when the football team travels to Blacksburg, Va., to contend with perennial national title competitors Virginia Tech. It would be something if the first major victory of Northeastern’s second season in the CAA were against a team in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“I went to Virginia Tech when I was the athletic director at Temple,” O’Brien said. “We were underdogs, it was homecoming and the governor was in attendance. They were ranked tenth and we beat them. I would love for that to happen again.”

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