Sports Commentary 2/5/14 – 44 Years of Excellence on the Job
44 YEARS OF EXCELLENCE ON THE JOB
By the time Pat Meiser arrived at the University of Connecticut, where she would serve for 11 years as associate athletic director and senior women’s administrator, she had already established herself as a pioneer of Title IX and one of the most influential women in college athletics.
Meiser arrived at UCONN after a successful run as the women’s basketball coach at Penn State, where she awarded their first women’s basketball scholarship in 1974, starting the Nittany Lions on the road to national prominence. In 1978 she was a finalist for the Wade Coach of the Year. One of just 30 female Division I athletic directors nationwide, Pat served as the president of the National Association of College Athletic Directors, which has twice named her the Athletics Director of the Year. In 2012 she was named one of 25 “Title IX Trailblazers” by the National Association of Women Athletic Administrators and has been named one of the top 50 sport business women in America by Street and Smith magazine. In April she’ll be inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
After 13 years at Penn State, with her legacy as a women’s college athletics pioneer already secure, Pat arrived at UCONN at a critical time in the athletic history of a school struggling with the growing pains of elevating from a position of regional athletic prominence in the Yankee Conference to the national stage in the Big East. In 1986 Meiser chaired a search committee that made one of the most impactful decisions in the history of Connecticut sports, hiring a brash young Philly kid and assistant women’s basketball coach from the University of Virginia to take the reins of UCONN women’s basketball. The arrival of Geno Auriemma in Storrs marked not only the beginning of an unprecedented era in women’s basketball, it was a watershed moment in all of women’s athletics.
21 years ago Meiser was hired to guide the athletic department at the University of Hartford. Five years later she gambled in an effort to inject some life into her women’s basketball program, offering the head coaching position to former UCONN star Jen Rizzotti, at the time a WNBA player with the Houston Comets. Under Rizzotti Hartford women’s basketball has become a perennial America East power and a frequent entry in the NCAA tournament.
Under Pat Meiser an array of new facilities for all sports now dots the athetic landscape on the West Hartford campus, Hartford men’s basketball made it’s first ever Division I post season appearance, men’s and women’s soccer and baseball have developed into programs envied by the rest of America East and the university has shown the rest of the league how major events, like the annual basketball tournament, should be hosted.
On a personal level, I’ve known Pat Meiser from the day she arrived at UCONN and I have never known an athletic administrator with more integrity, or a better person. In an era when the primary responsibility of universities was being muddied at many institutions, Pat was a master at overseeing a seamless blend of academic and athletic success.