AD leaves for Drexel

AD leaves for Drexel

Athletics Director (AD) Dave O’Brien announced Thursday he is leaving Northeastern to take an academic position at Drexel University effective July 1. He is the eighth AD in Northeastern’s history and has accepted a faculty appointment as Director of Sports Management at Drexel.

Director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society and Associate Athletics Director for Student-Athlete Welfare Peter Roby will act as interim Athletics Director when O’Brien departs this summer.

“Right now my role is to help stabilize the athletic department and make sure that we have some continuity as we move toward the rest of the year in the transition,” Roby said.

O’Brien said he was not actively pursuing another job but knew the opening at Drexel would be the type of job he wanted. The location of Drexel in Philadelphia also made it a perfect fit, as his wife and youngest son have remained there while he has worked in Boston.

“In the back of my mind I had been thinking about a new position, but when President Freeland announced his resignation I thought this might be a good time to take a look and see what else was out there. I saw the Drexel job late last summer, applied for it, but didn’t hear anything from Drexel until late December and had some subsequent conversations with them up to the point that they offered me the position,” O’Brien said. “I started out as a high school teacher and coach and I always thought that at some point I would try to transition to a faculty position at the college level based upon what I have experienced. I thought that at some point in time there would be a natural fit in what I would like to do, which is teach, and what I have done, which is to be an athletic director.”

O’Brien became the Northeastern Athletics Director Sept. 16, 2002, after serving the same role at Temple University for six years. O’Brien said he clearly remembers the day he heard about the opening at Northeastern.

“I was contacted by a search firm who had the Northeastern assignment and I had worked with this man on a candidacy at another school so I trusted him and respected him and thought he had very good instincts,” O’Brien said. “I remember very clearly the day he called me: Aug. 5, 2002. I had known about the job but hadn’t pursued it but he was so excited. He left three messages on my cell phone and he seemed to get more excited in each message. He thought it was an ideal spot and it was poised to do great things. He thought my experiences would be perfect but I doubted him even as I returned the call. I respected him enough to look into him. And his excitement was contagious and the potential was very real.”

In the five years since he started at Northeastern, O’Brien has moved Northeastern toward being a nationally recognized athletics program, most notably by moving the school to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) in 2005. He considers it his greatest accomplishment at Northeastern.

“I think the move to the CAA complements nicely what the University is trying to do in becoming a top-100 school and becoming a regionally and nationally respected institution,” he said.

O’Brien will also be remembered for hiring men’s hockey coach Greg Cronin, football coach Rocky Hager, men’s basketball coach Bill Coen and women’s basketball coach Daynia La-Force Mann.

However, as O’Brien leaves, he is aware there are projects he will not get to see finished. He will not see the renovations to Matthews Arena which were recently approved by the board of trustees. He will also be added to the list of Northeastern Athletics Directors who could not get an on-campus stadium built.

“That’s a disappointment,” O’Brien said. “We have made progress on the stadium. Getting the student fee passed took a lot of hard work and it set the stage for potential success. We had donors who were very prepared to step up. I was very optimistic that we were going to pull that off.”

Northeastern’s urban environment, city regulations and other university priorities like residence halls, led to the stadium delay, O’Brien said.

“I am very disappointed we didn’t get it done, although I think we gave it the best run so far,” he said. “Hopefully we set the stage for some success in the future.”

Roby will work on an interim basis and it is unknown if Northeastern will open a national search for the next Athletics Director. Roby has been involved in Northeastern Athletics since coming to the school in 2002, and last year was named Associate Athletics Director for Student-Athlete Welfare.

He previously spent 11 years serving at Reebok International, most recently earning the title of vice president of U.S. marketing. He also has 12 years of experience as a collegiate basketball coach as an assistant at Stanford University, Dartmouth College and the U.S. Military Academy.

He spent three years at Harvard University as an assistant under Frank McLaughlin. Following McLaughlin’s departure in 1985, Roby was elevated to the position of head coach, which he held for six seasons.

“Part of what the University is asking me to do is in the midst of Dave’s transition that there be somebody that is the face of Northeastern and with the coaching staff, with the student athletes, with the alums,” Roby said. “And I look forward to serving in that role. This is about the University asking for me to serve in a capacity where I can bring value and I’m humbled and honored by the University asking me to serve in that role.”

Leave a Reply