Providence College promotes Steve Napolillo to replace Bob Driscoll as Athletic Director

·4 min read

PROVIDENCE — It took less than a week for Providence to select its next athletic director.

The Friars announced Wednesday afternoon that they’ve promoted Steve Napolillo, the department’s chief fundraiser and a senior staff member since his 2003 hiring.

Napolillo’s previous title was senior associate athletic director for external relations. He was one of several longtime Providence employees serving under the retiring Bob Driscoll and thought to be one of the leading internal candidates to succeed him. Napolillo will officially assume his new post in July.

“I look forward to building on an amazing legacy that has been created over the last 21 years under Bob Driscoll,” Napolillo said in a statement. “He has been a mentor, friend and father figure.

Steve Napolillo
Steve Napolillo

“Providence athletics will always be a student-centric department that gives our student-athletes the best experience in the classroom and on the field of play.”

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During his outgoing press conference on Sunday, Driscoll said he believed the Friars should promote from within. He cited the culture built in the department over the last two decades and the advancements made with respect to donor funding, facilities and success in multiple sports against a reconfigured Big East field. Driscoll said he was asked to advise the school president, the Rev. Kenneth R. Sicard, prior to the decision.

Bob Driscoll
Bob Driscoll

“So much of what we have been able to accomplish during my time at Providence has been due to the hard work and dedication of Steve,” Driscoll said in a statement. “He played a big part in helping to craft our student-centered vision for athletics.”

Sicard already was thinking along the same lines due to his own personal experience. Providence’s former vice president served under Rev. Brian J. Shanley, who led the college for three terms from 2005-20. Sicard was elevated to succeed Shanley, who was hired away to his current role as school president at St. John’s.

“I recognize the similarity that exists between Bob and Steve’s relationship,” Sicard said in a statement. “Such continuity of leadership allows for a seamless transition that ensures the ongoing success we have enjoyed under Bob’s leadership and encourages new opportunities.”

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Men’s basketball coach Ed Cooley and men’s ice hockey coach Nate Leaman were among those quoted in the official release, and it wasn’t coincidental. They head the two marquee programs at the school, and alignment between the department and their two staffs is paramount for both retention and continued success.

Cooley is on track for a sixth NCAA Tournament appearance in 11 seasons while Leaman has reached two Frozen Fours and won a national championship in 2015.

“[Napolillo's] love for Providence College and his ability to foster and build relationships have been a major reason why our athletic department has experienced so much success,” Cooley said. “I believe that he will continue to grow and provide the leadership and vision to help our student-athletes become great future Friars.”

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“His work ethic and vision will enable him to build on Bob’s success and lead us in the future,” Leaman said. “Steve has been at PC for a long time, and he has been an integral part of our championship culture.”

Napolillo was empowered by Driscoll to build a fundraising machine that has generated more than $100 million over the past two decades. The Friars bring in more than $7 million annually in cash donations and have invested in both programs and infrastructure. Having such resources immediately on hand allowed Providence to act quickly when Michigan pursued Cooley for its men’s basketball job opening following the 2018-19 season.

“Steve’s experience as an athletic fundraiser will fortify efforts to provide our student athletes with resources, programs and facilities that complement the holistic development of the ‘student’ in our athletes,” said Chris Reilly, chair of the school’s board of trustees. “I have no doubt that Steve will continue to help us advance our national reputation by further developing our athletic programs.”

Napolillo is a Rhode Island native, a 1994 graduate of Bishop Hendricken and a 1998 graduate of Providence. He’s on course to complete a master’s degree in sports management at Georgetown and worked with the Pawtucket Red Sox before being hired away by the Friars.

Napolillo, his wife, Beth, and their two children make their home in North Kingstown. The Friars have scheduled a press conference for 2 p.m. Friday to officially introduce him.

On Twitter: @BillKoch25

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Providence College replaces Bob Driscoll with Steve Napolillo as AD

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