This morning, Northeastern University announced that Athletic Director Peter Roby will retire, effective after the 2017-18 athletic schedule. His tenure at the head of Northeastern Athletics will end in June of 2018.
In his 15 years at Northeastern, including 10 as their director of athletics and recreation, Roby oversaw teams that won a collective seven regular season conference championships, seventeen postseason conference championships, eight New England Championships in track and field, fifteen national tournament teams and a thriving rowing program.
Roby has long been an advocate for embracing the full scope of the term “student-athlete,” emphasizing that college athletics is meant for an education in tandem with on-field performance. Echoing his sentiment, Northeastern athletes have posted ninteen straight semester of a cumulative 3.0 grade-point average or higher; 2016 was collectively the most successful year under his tenure, with student-athletes achieving roughly a 3.2 GPA.
Roby was a controversial figure among Northeastern fans, however most of the drama related to him came from before I, and my fellow bloggers, were students at Northeastern. From discussions over the past number of years, it’s evident that there was criticism on how the termination of the Northeastern football program was handled, although the team itself was hardly a contender for much notoriety. With just one bowl appearance (a loss in the 1963 Eastern Bowl) and just three top three conference finishes in it’s history, it was an uncompetitive, money hemorrhaging program. However, the majority of criticism, especially in hockey circles, relates to his handling of the NCAA violation committed by former head coach Greg Cronin, who, along with his assistants, sent more text messages than the rules permitted to a player who had already committed to the program and logged texts inadequately. In addition to suspending Cronin for the final six games of the 2010-11 regular season, it is widely believed that Roby played a hand in Cronin leaving the university after the conclusion of the season.
Roby made the biggest hire of his tenure when he chose Jim Madigan to replace Cronin at the helm of the school’s flagship program. The move was met by critics on both sides of the decision, with the majority of criticism coming due to Madigan’s lack of coaching experience. Six years later, however, and Madigan has proven to be a quality recruiter and a capable coach, leading the Huskies to their first Hockey East championship since 1988, and orchestrating arguably the most successful four-year period in program history.
Peter Roby has long been a leader in the field of sports and education. He has prided himself on fostering an environment that creates quality men and women in addition to producing results on the field. At times, this approach irked many Huskies fans, who considered it an anchor holding back the potential success Northeastern could achieve. There also was the perception, sometimes more founded than others, that Roby prioritized basketball more than any other sport on campus. A former basketball player, Roby was often seen at basketball games while invisible at other sporting events. Personally, I always felt that hockey took a back seat to basketball in Roby’s eyes. However, the passion he had for Northeastern and the desire he had for the whole department to be successful is undeniable.
Going forward, Northeastern will have a decision to be made of astronomical proportions. Choosing the wrong athletic director could sink a blossoming program, and kill enthusiasm for the teams. However, choosing the correct successor can continue to invigorate the fan base, drum up student interest in the games, and provide the leadership needed to continue the upward trend of Northeastern athletics. Northeastern’s sterling reputation as an academic power, its location in the center of Boston, its status as a fully Division I school, and its rising athletic prowess will certainly draw suitors and interest from across the country.
My only hope for the search is that the school takes full advantage of the year’s notice they are being given, and they select the right candidate from a pool of well-qualified applicants from across the country. My biggest fear is that the school will hinder itself, getting in its own way by choosing candidates that have limited experience needed for the job, or that they will simply choose from within their own department. A decision of this magnitude simply cannot be left on the back burner, where someone can be shoe-horned into the role. There has to be the perfect marriage between candidate, qualifications, passion, and expectations by the school.
Congratulations to Peter Roby on his retirement, and on a successful career as Northeastern’s athletic director. We wish you all the best in whatever you pursue next.