Athletic Directors are often the unsung heroes of intercollegiate sports.

We don’t often think about the work that goes in to providing a well-rounded athletic program for a university.

Athletic Directors are expected to create and manage a responsible budget, supervise athletic facilities and fields, craft schedules, line up officials, order equipment and secure transportation for games and tournaments.

Much of this work is done behind the scenes and is often overlooked by athletes and spectators.  But Fairfield’s own Athletic Director, Gene Doris, has been recognized for his work in crafting the athletic program as we know it today.

When Gene Doris came to Fairfield in 1994, he could have never imagined he would be receiving the 2010 Division I Northeast Athletic Director of the Year Award.

However, he also could have never imagined what the athletic program would look like in 2010.

When Doris arrived, the Walsh Athletic Center did not exist.  Fairfield did not have a softball field, there were no bleachers on Lessing Field, and the turf field had not yet been anticipated.

The Stags’ athletic funding was limited to scholarships for the basketball team and Fairfield was barely meeting the criteria required by the NCAA to be a Division I member.

Visiting teams were told to come dressed in their uniforms because there was not a locker room for them to use.

In fact, there were not even locker rooms for most teams on campus. Most coaching jobs at Fairfield were part time and only two coaches had office space.

Doris’ office was the size of a cubicle located in the RecPlex, where he had to manage the entire Fairfield Athletic Program.

In his sixteen years at Fairfield, Doris, with what he describes as “the most dedicated staff I could have asked for,” has managed to completely change almost everything about the Fairfield University Athletics Program, which is why the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics felt he deserved this prestigious award.

“It’s always great that other people think you’re doing a good job,” Doris remarked when asked about his recognition, “you know in your heart of hearts if you are doing a good job, but it’s always nice to have affirmation from an outsider.”

Doris was honored in a celebration this past summer in Anaheim, California, which he described as a “powerful moment in your life that you will always remember.”

At the same time Doris was receiving his honor, John Wooden, UCLA’s prolific basketball coach, was receiving a posthumous award.

This was something he described as “very powerful,” in reference to being recognized at the same venue as this basketball legend.

This is an extraordinary award, given to only 29 Athletic Directors from around the country annually.  Doris considers this his biggest accomplishment at Fairfield because as he put it, “this is my first award on the national level which is why this is such a big deal.”

Doris was, without a doubt, deserving of this recognition. According to The Fairfield Current, the criteria for this award required service as a successful Athletic Director for a minimum of five academic years; demonstration of commitment to higher education and student-athletes; continuous teamwork, loyalty, and excellence; and the ability to inspire individuals or groups to high levels of accomplishments. During his time at Fairfield, Gene Doris has met these criteria tenfold.

Receiving this award is not only a tribute to his work, but also to the current standing of the University’s athletics program.

On top of the personal aspects of the criteria, each AD’s institution must pass a compliance check through its appropriate governing body, in this case NCAA.

The institution must not have been on probation or cited for a lack of institutional control within the last five years during the tenure of the current athletics director.

Doris has experienced an outpouring of support from the Fairfield community after he won this award.

“I’m still getting congratulations emails from alumni,” he chuckled. Doris’ humble nature was apparent in saying that without his entire team he could never have received this award.

“I know this sounds corny but when anyone at an institution gets an award, it’s truly on everyone’s behalf.” Doris was quick to point out that his dedicated staff and coaches were crucial in getting the Fairfield program to where it is today.

There is no doubt that our current athletes, and those who came before them, are deeply indebted to Gene Doris and his staff.

Fairfield has greatly benefited from his vision and, more importantly, his ability to make that vision a reality. The current athletic program at Fairfield is literally the product of Doris’ work, but he isn’t done yet.

The improvements made by Doris in the Stags’ programs have allowed some teams to start competing on the national level.

Doris cites the recent successes of Men’s and Women’s Soccer, Women’s Tennis, and Lacrosse as huge milestones for the University. “We’re definitely getting there.” Doris said, but his goal now is to keep the Stags on the national stage by getting the coaches and athletes the things they need to continue to do their jobs on a higher level.  Isn’t that the mark of every champion?

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