Rich Ensor, the face of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference as league commissioner since 1988, announced his retirement on Wednesday, effective at the end of the 2022-23 season.
The longest tenured NCAA Division I multi-sport conference commissioner, Ensor has held his post at the MAAC since August, 1988, when he was named as the third commissioner of the MAAC, whose member schools include Siena College since 1989-90.
When Ensor’s tenure ends in June, he will have served as MAAC commissioner for approximately 35 years; the longest DI commissioner term in NCAA history, surpassing Doug Elgin of the Missouri Valley Conference, who held his post at the MVC for 33 years.
“It has been a privilege to serve as Commissioner of the MAAC since 1988 and represent a conference dedicated to achieving success in academics and athletics,” Ensor said in a release.
“I want to thank the generations of coaches, athletes and administrators who have competed in the MAAC during my tenure for their commitment to these goals and the MAAC Council of Presidents for their on-going support.”
“Rich Ensor has been an outstanding commissioner of the Metro Athletic Atlantic Conference for nearly 34 years,” said Rev. James J. Maher, President of Niagara University and MAAC President. “Throughout his tenure he has maintained a critical focus on the student-athlete experience, as well as a focus on strong advocacy for the inclusion of women’s sports, with women’s basketball being a powerful example.”
“The MAAC and its members owe a great deal to Rich for his leadership,” Siena vice president/director of athletics John D’Argenio said via the @MAACSports Twitter account.
“He has had the conference out in front of many strategic moves, whether it was to be among the conferences to align with ESPNU and ESPN’s streaming platforms, combining the men’s and women’s basketball tournament to provide a great experience for all basketball student-athletes while developing a model attractive to communities and venues, or providing outstanding championship experiences for all of our sports.”
When Ensor was hired in 1988, the MAAC sponsored 13 sports and championships and held just two NCAA Championship automatic qualifications (men’s basketball and women’s basketball).
Those numbers have since grown to 24 sports and championships and 15 NCAA AQs during his time with the league.
In addition to the current 24 sports, the MAAC also previously sponsored both a football league and ice hockey league, at which time the conference sponsored a league-record 26 sports.
A pioneer of equity, Ensor has been involved with the growth of women’s sports, especially women’s basketball.
He serves on the boards of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, has chaired the Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee and has been a past member of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee.
Ensor was instrumental in combining the women’s basketball tournament with the men’s basketball tournament in 1992 at what was then called Knickerbocker Arena in Albany (currently MVP Arena), having both tournaments run simultaneously at the same neutral site for 30 consecutive years – the longest running combined neutral site basketball tournaments in DI.
The WBCA has honored Ensor twice for his contributions to women’s basketball with the coach’s association’s Presidents Award in 2014 and as its Administrator of the Year in 2015.
“Under Rich’s strong and innovative leadership, the MAAC has grown significantly,” retired MAAC senior associate commissioner Barbara Church said via Twitter. “Rich has elevated the conference to an academically and athletically competitive mid-major program. He has been an influential leader in collegiate athletics on the local, regional and international levels.”
“Rich’s creative thinking and willingness to push us all to take some risks has made the MAAC Better,” D’Argenio said. “His astute understanding of the national landscape and the NCAA Legislative process has benefitted all mid-major conferences. Personally, he has been a great resource to me over the years as we have worked together to make us all better.”
“The enduring and future success of the MAAC has Rich’s imprint on it, as well as the legacy of critical partnerships and relationships within collegiate athletics and beyond,” Maher said.
The MAAC will conduct a national search for Ensor’s successor, with TurnkeyZRG handling the recruitment of candidates and the coordination of the hiring process.
The MAAC will begin its 42nd year of competition this season. Besides Siena, current conference members include Canisius, Fairfield, Iona, Manhattan, Marist, Mount St. Mary’s, Niagara, Quinnipiac, Rider and Saint Peter’s.