Although Lee McElroy can finally get off the treadmill, he plans to keep his feet moving.
The University at Albany’s athletic director and vice president announced Monday that he is stepping down after 14 successful seasons of running the Great Danes’ 19 NCAA Division I intercollegiate athletic programs.
His retirement as AD begins at the end of the month, but he will remain with UAlbany for the next year as a special consultant to UAlbany president Robert J. Jones as the senior advisor on athletic advancement and engagement.
“It’s been a great run here,” said the 66-year-old McElroy, who said he is in great health and still works out on the treadmill six days a week. In fact, his workout session was interrupted several times Tuesday by well-wishers offering their thanks for all that he has done for the UAlbany program.
“I’m a little overwhelmed right now. I received more than 200 emails, and I will return every one of them,” he said.
McElroy said his decision may seem a bit unexpected, but that actually, his retirement is at a perfect time.
“Every year, I look back over the year and see what we’ve done. That provides a road map going into the future with our students, our coaches and our staff,” he said. “After assessing where we were at, I just thought it was time.”
McElroy said he is most proud of the relationships he has built and the achievements of his athletic programs. The Great Danes have captured 74 conference titles and have earned 31 NCAA tournament bids during his tenure.
“I’ve been asked to define my legacy, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about for the last several days,” McElroy said. “One thing I’m proud of is that our student-athletes have earned higher grades than the general student body.
“We’ve won all those conference titles and NCAA appearances, but we’ve also won the America East Conference Commissioner’s Cup three times, including the last two years in a row. That’s special to me, because only three athletic programs — Boston University, Delaware and UAlbany — have won the Commissioner’s Cup since it began. To me, that’s symbolic of our success.”
McElroy pointed to brokering his first major corporate deal – the renaming of the former Recreation and & Convocation Center as SEFCU Arena — and he also talked about the other new facilities and upgrades, including the new football stadium, Bob Ford Field; a new field hockey facility; a new lacrosse venue, John Fallon Field; and a new track and field complex.
“Finally, my relationship with the media, the community, our coaches, our students and our staff have been extremely rewarding,” McElroy said. “My coaches have felt close to me as a person.”
McElroy recalled that when he first took the AD job in 2000, UAlbany didn’t even belong to a conference. “There were a lot of expectations on me, and there were a lot of things to accomplish,” he said.
Although McElroy is a Texas native and played football at UCLA, he said he has developed strong ties with the Capital Region.
“The Capital Region is very special to us,” he said. “The people are very good, and they are a class act here. Obviously, my roots are in Texas, but we will be sharing our time now between Texas and here. We have very strong ties here now.”
McElroy said he will continue his administrative duties on numerous NCAA committees, as well his charity work, including being on the board of trustees for The College of Saint Rose, working with the American Cancer Society, the YMCA and other local charities. He will also continue in his role with the National
Minority Golf Foundation.
McElroy, who graduated from UCLA in 1970 and later received his master’s degree from USC and his doctorate from the University of Houston, previously served as president of the America East Conference Executive Committee, as well as serving a three-year term on the NCAA Division I Management Council. He was president of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, and was named that organization’s General Robert R. Neyland Outstanding Athletic Director Award in 2004.
McElroy was inducted into the John McLendon Minority Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012.
An avid golfer, McElroy was previously athletic director at American University, California State University-Sacramento and the University of the District of Columbia. He was an assistant AD and associate AD at the University of Houston for seven years.
McElroy began his education career as a high school teacher in Santa Monica, Calif., and he later was both a teacher and a school principal in Beaumont, Texas.
“I can truthfully say, with all respect to my other positions, that my 14 years in the Capital Region have been my happiest,” said McElroy. “I plan on sticking around here for a while.”
“I cheer as much as any Great Danes fan when our teams do well on the field or in the competitive arena, but I could not be prouder than I am of the way our student-athletes excel in the classroom and go on to productive, fulfilling careers. We had a share of championship banners hanging in our arena, but I’m most gratified by the diplomas hanging in the homes of our alumni.”
“Lee is nationally recognized for his work in advocating for both athletics and academics, and his commitment has resulted in UAlbany student-athletes having a consistent record of academic achievement,” said president Jones, who will begin a national search for a new AD.
“His 14 years here have been marked by athletic fortitude and achievement, as well as academic excellence. I’m pleased Lee will conclude his service to the university and our community by working with me to continue instilling these values in students and throughout our community.”