July 01, 2022

Contract, challenge lure Nero from UMaine Athletic director accepts job as America East commissioner

He indicated that it was an offer he simply couldn’t refuse.

So University of Maine Athletic Director Patrick Nero has resigned to become the next commissioner of America East on Aug. 8.

Nero was offered a staggering $110,000 per year pay increase as the America East commissioner. He signed a three-year contract that will pay him $235,000 a year. Nero became the AD at Maine on March 13, 2003, signing a three-year contract that paid him $125,000 a year.

“It will be a different challenge for me. It’ll give me an opportunity to impact athletics on a regional and national level,” said the 40-year-old Nero. “I’ll have a seat on the NCAA’s Management Council, which has the final say on all NCAA legislation. I’ll also be a member of the Conference Commissioners Association, which has a lot of responsibility nationally. It’ll allow me to have influence on very important issues.”

Nero has been a college administrator for nearly 20 years and he said this gives him a chance to make a difference “away from the daily grind of a campus.”

“I figure I’m going to work another 25 years and this was a good time to try this,” said Nero, who had previously served in administrative capacities at the University of Miami (Fla.), Marquette University (Wis.), Lamar (Texas), and his alma mater, Providence College.

Nero will replace Chris Monasch, who resigned on March 12 to become the athletic director at St. John’s University.

University of Maine President Robert Kennedy said he will appoint an interim AD before Nero leaves on July 23. Maine will then conduct a national search during the academic year to find a replacement for Nero.

“We’ll miss him a ton,” said Maine men’s hockey coach Tim Whitehead. “He has had an amazing impact in a short amount of time on the university and the athletic department. He was exceptional in every area of the job. He was an excellent communicator, a tremendous fund-raiser, and a very strong administrator.

“He will immediately jumpstart America East with his vision, leadership, and credibility. He’s going to do some special things.”

Maine field hockey coach and senior women’s administrator Terry Kix said Nero was “very charismatic” and possesses a lot of energy.

“He made some very good improvements for our department, especially on the physical side,” said Kix. “The good thing is he’ll still be part of the University of Maine as well as the other [conference] campuses.”

She added that Nero will be looking at the “big picture” and finding ways to improve the conference.

University of Hartford President Walter Harrison, the chairman of the America East Board of Presidents and one of the members of the search committee, said Nero has “great energy and a wonderful vision for what America East can be and that’s very important for us at this point in our history.

“He has a really firm grasp of what intercollegiate athletics should be,” added Harrison.

Harrison also said Nero has a “great sense” for forming the identity of America East.

“We can develop an important and specific niche in Division I athletics and Patrick can lead us there,” Harrison said. “He’s exactly the right man for the job.”

Harrison played a key role in Nero landing the job.

Nero was involved in the search for the new commissioner along with the other eight athletic directors, Harrison, and Binghamton University President Lois DeFleur.

“About a month ago, I was approached by a few ADs and they asked me to consider the job,” said Nero. “I decided I wanted to stay at Maine. Then, a week ago, Walter Harrison made me a pretty aggressive offer.”

Nero said he felt “extremely lucky” to have been able to spend two years at Maine and was pleased with what was accomplished during his tenure.

Maine won five conference titles and had 11 teams advance to conference title games. The Shawn Walsh Hockey Center has been constructed for the men’s and women’s ice hockey programs and it was financed by supporters of the program and alumni.

The Kessock Softball Stadium has been upgraded, and there will be a groundbreaking for a new multi-sport indoor practice facility later this summer.

Maine won its first America East Academic Cup in 2004 and it was second to Boston University for the league’s all-sports program despite sponsoring three fewer sports than BU.

“We were able to focus on what was important to the student-athletes and the coaches. I’m really satisfied with where we are today. I think we’ve really got it set up for the future. Whoever replaces me is set up for great success,” said Nero.

He added that he hopes his replacement is Blake James, the senior associate athletic director at Maine.

Nero said James has played a key part in their success and in establishing their values.

Nero admitted there were frustrations at UMaine and he became more realistic what was and wasn’t going to get done on time.

But he said those frustrations were overshadowed “by the accomplishments of the coaches and student-athletes.”

“I really, really believed in what we were doing specifically for the kids and the coaches,” he said.

He not only praised the coaches and the student-athletes at Maine, he also lauded the community and faculty support.

“The community responded so well to our message,” said Nero.

He said the Shawn Walsh Hockey Center, which will include a Hall of Fame, will make Alfond Arena the best facility in the country because they will now have the best of both worlds: state-of-the-art improvements without diminishing the raucous atmosphere in the arena that provides a distinct home-ice advantage.

He also said an architect has been hired to devise a plan for a new 3,500-seat basketball facility by the end of the year. The men’s and women’s basketball teams play their home games at Alfond Arena, but they aren’t able to practice there with any regularity because of its hockey use.

He said he has many challenges as the America East commissioner.

“The biggest challenge is our long-range plan. Who are we going to align with? What sports are we going to sponsor? I’d like to add some schools, but that’s probably two or three years down the road,” said Nero.

In addition to Maine, Hartford, and BU, the other schools in the conference are the University of New Hampshire, Albany (N.Y.), Stony Brook (N.Y.), Northeastern (Mass.), Vermont, Maryland Baltimore County, and Binghamton (N.Y.).

The America East offices are in Boston, which is 45 minutes from Nero’s hometown of Johnston, R.I.

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