This is the one of many columns to be written by UMBC Director of Athletics Dr. Charles Brown. Dr. Brown is believed to be the longest-tenured AD in the state, with over 20 years at the helm of the Retrievers. He has been an athletic director since 1981 and has served two terms as president of the Maryland Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and one term on the NCAA Division I Championships/Competition Cabinet.
I am honored to be chosen for the UMBC Athletic Hall of Fame. Thank you members of the Hall of Fame committee. I’d also like to thank my friend, Mike Gansell, for nominating me. We have been friends for 45 years, and I value very much his friendship and wisdom.
I’m also grateful to have been selected as the Director of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation nearly 23 years ago. I’d like to acknowledge and thank those who helped me grow our program into the highly successful one it is today.
Dr. Michael Hooker, UMBC’s past president, along with Dr. Sue Kitchen, chose me for the position in the Spring of 1989, and I will forever be grateful for the faith they put in me to guide our program from it’s Division I infancy to its current maturing state. During the interview process (a 2 ½ day visit!), I told Dr. Kitchen that I would stay at UMBC for the remainder of my career…if I was happy on the job and if my family and I enjoyed living in Maryland. Well, I’m still here and not done yet!!
In order for our department to function as well as it does, we’ve needed many other departments on campus to work together for our overall success. Whether it’s been Admissions, Academic Services, Facilities Management, Business Services, the Bookstore, Residential Life, etc., I’d like to thank you all for all your help and cooperation.
Our support staff, administrative staff, and coaching staff have been GREAT! Our department has the most stable staff of any athletic program in the state of Maryland. Professionals who visit us are amazed at our cohesiveness as well as our dedication to our campus and our students. Thank you so much for all you have done.
I need to give special thanks to 3 of my colleagues:
- Kathy Zerrlaut, who, if you cut her, would bleed BLACK and GOLD! She is as honest as the day is long (and sometimes our days are VERY long!). She has a keen sense of the history of this place and how good things are now at UMBC. Many times, she has pointed me in the right direction and ALWAYS HAS MY BACK.
- Debee Mathews, my amazing assistant, who always makes me look good—prepared, organized, and on time. She is without a doubt, the best assistant at UMBC. She has conquered personal issues and never missed a beat, always keeping the best interests of the department and me at the forefront. Rarely is she frazzled, and my confidence in her helps me stay calm in a very stressful job.
- Finally, Gary Wohlstetter. Gary was my student intern back at Hunter College in New York City in the late 1980’s. HE HAS BEEN BY MY SIDE EVER SINCE. Gary’s versatility is one of his many strengths. Whether he is managing the construction of the stadium locker room, overseeing team budgets, finessing our sports apparel bid, or supervising summer camps, etc., GARY ALWAYS GETS IT RIGHT. I have great confidence in him to get the job done on time, correctly and on budget. He is the only New Yorker I took with me and it’s been a GREAT RIDE together…and he met his New York wife, Erica, here in Baltimore.
My family gets the greatest credit for whatever success I’ve had. Moving from our BELOVED New York was a difficult task. Linda, my two daughters, Melissa and Michelle, and I moved to Howard County at the advice of Dr. Hooker. Melissa was going into her senior year of high school and that, we thought, would be traumatic. Actually, it turned out great!! I remember her calling me at work in her first month at Centennial High School. She was on a lunch break and was taking a walk by the Athletic Fields. She said, “Dad, there are COWS grazing behind the fields!! WE WEREN’T IN NEW YORK ANYMORE!!!
We had our ups and downs during the first few years, but the ROCK OF GIBRALTER, my wife of nearly 44 years, gave me confidence every step of the way. Today, I cannot imagine a family closer than ours with my wife, 2 girls, 2 sons-in-law, 4 grandchildren and extended family and friends who are here tonight. Linda has been the glue that’s kept us so close and our bond has grown stronger with each passing year.
In preparing this speech, I’ve given lots of thought to my 23 years as a Retriever. Those who know me well, know I have very strong ideas on how things should be done and a vision of what I want our department to be like.
Every program that we offer—whether it be a varsity team, club sport, intramural event, PE class, camp or recreational activity—should be given the opportunity to be successful. We are not the most highly funded program. Some of our competition have more than double our resources, but through hard work, good judgement, and organization, we always find a way to be at or near the top of the pack.
I’m extremely proud of the way we conduct our business. In times when sports headlines across the nation speak of cheating, abuse and misplaced values, I know that we have our priorities in order. Our student athletes as well as our coaches are great representations of what is right in Collegiate Sports. They have high graduation rates (10-15% higher than the University average) and act as positive role models on campus, in the community and at games. There is a true synergy between us and our surrounding community. We disprove the “dumb jock” stereotype EVERY DAY. We are the front porch of this University and do it proud.
We’ve had some great moments together. More than 50 championships in various sports have brought us media attention, campus pride, spirit, and loyalty to the black and gold. It helps us to remember these special moments when things aren’t going the way we would like them to. One constant has been the growth of UMBC under the dynamic leadership of our President, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski. I’m proud to have been the AD during UMBC’s finest years to date. Just walk down the path from the RAC to the Library and see all the students wearing Black and Gold. I remember when I arrived—the bookstore was selling Notre Dame, Maryland, and Georgetown sweatshirts—WITH MY ARRIVAL, THAT DIDN’T LAST VERY LONG!! Our programs get better every year, and as our school flourishes, so does our department.
Some of the things I’m most proud of are:
- Winning 6 conference commissioner cups – by far, more than any other Division I school in Maryland.
- Bringing the NCAA Division I basketball tournament to Baltimore in 1996—the first and only time.
- Hosting the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Lacrosse on campus with NCAA record crowds.
- Directing and securing the bid for the Men’s Final Four in Lacrosse at Raven’s Stadium—the first ever lacrosse championship in a pro football stadium (50,000 in attendance!)
- Gaining membership in the America East Conference 8 years ago.
- Never having a major NCAA violation during 23 years of service.
- Constructing the RAC and renovating the field house (students “meeting at the RAC”); building the DAWG Pound Locker Complex, the Retriever Soccer Park (sledding down the back hill), the track, the turf stadium field, the 50 meter outdoor pool, the club sport complex, and upgrading the tennis center. A quick story regarding the track complex! When I was on my first interview, I asked where the track was. I was told that we had a track team, but they trained locally at Catonsville Community College. The stadium, the logical place to fit a track, I was told was too small. It didn’t appear that way to me, so I walked off the steps on the lacrosse field from end to end and side to side, got in my car and drove to the Naval Academy field. I walked the track and realized that it could fit. We worked hard to get the funding and it became a reality.
- Securing lights for the Stadium, baseball field, soccer park and tennis courts. We’re not through.
- Irrigating all 7 athletic fields—with Baltimore summers, that was a priority.
- Starting the club sport program – now 25 teams and 800 participants strong with programs from ice hockey and wrestling to ultimate Frisbee and ballroom dance.
- Starting a Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) in 1994, before it was required by the NCAA. I was the first advisor to SAAC.
- Creating and developing the 4 spirit groups—2 dance squads, the cheer squad and the band and drum line. In 1990, Dr. Hooker called me to his office and asked if we could start a pep band for basketball games. At first we had a one-person band with Jamie Gansell playing her keyboard up on the track level. Today we have the top band in the America East Conference with the “Down & Dirty Dawg Band” and the best dance squad I’ve ever seen in college athletics. Our game atmosphere is awesome!
- Establishing this Hall of Fame banquet and induction ceremony.
Finally, many years ago, I was told by one of my mentors that IF Athletics was not an INTEGRAL EDUCATIONAL COMPONENT of the University, then it didn’t belong on a college campus. Recently, in what I believe is a disturbing trend, Athletic Directors are being hired who have MBA’s, law degrees, fundraising credentials, etc. They bring a business “bottom line” model to the table. ALL 3 OF MY DEGREES—BACHELORS, MASTERS, AND PH.D.—ARE IN THE FIELD OF EDUCATION. I was a student athlete, a high school and college coach, intramural director, professor of physical education and a director of athletics at both NCAA Division III and Division I. I’ve spent all of my professional life in the field of education. My definition of success has an educational basis.
Many people have told me that I’m so lucky to be a college AD---it must be so much fun!!! Well, my job is 24/7 !!! We live and die by the deeds of 18-23 year olds!! We are scrutinized and evaluated by the media, the NCAA and Legislative auditors, parents, and the public. We are working while others are enjoying the hundreds of events we put on annually.
BUT I STILL LOVE IT! WE’RE NOT DONE YET!!