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St. John’s names Wegrzyn new AD

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When Ed Manetta resigned from his post to take a job in the corporate world last month, St. John’s University began a search for its next athletic director. That search began and ended on the fifth floor of Sullivan Hall on the Jamaica campus in a corner office that oversees the football field. That’s where Dave Wegrzyn will oversee the athletic department as the school’s new athletic director, St. John’s announced last Wednesday.

“I am so thrilled and honored to have been named the next athletic director at St. John’s University,” Wegrzyn said. “It is always a proud moment in one’s life to be associated with a university such as St. John’s, particularly with such a fine tradition in athletics.”

Wegrzyn, 37, becomes only the fourth athletic director in 131 years at St. John’s, following in the footsteps of Manetta, Jack Kaiser and Walter McLaughlin.

“That means there’s been great stability, to have only four people in that position in the 131-year history of the university,” he said. “That is something I wish to continue, that long stability with a long tenure. I’m very excited to be in the position I’m at, I’m very excited to be at St. John’s.”

In addition to heading the athletic department, Wegrzyn will continue to be in charge of the university’s office of development and alumni relations.

“David is extremely qualified to take on the important task of guiding our athletic program,” said the Rev. Donald J. Harrington, president of St. John’s University, in a statement. “His abilities and loyalty to St. John’s have been proven time and again and I am confident that he will lead our student-athletes and our university to even greater heights.”

As part of the restructuring in the athletic department, Jackson Heights resident Kathy Meehan, who has been the associate athletic director since 1993, has been promoted to associate vice president and will oversee the day-to-day operations of the athletic department.

“Another reason this is able to work in the structure that we set forth is Kathy’s long history in athletics,” said Wegrzyn, who earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration at Bryant College and his master’s in sports administration at Temple University. “She’s a very capable person as a manager, very knowledgeable about collegiate athletics and the student-athlete. Having a person like that in place in the athletic department really makes this easier for the university. She is a true professional at what she does.”

According to Meehan, her responsibilities under Wegrzyn will be similar to those under Manetta, whose last day is July 2.

“In reality it’s a lot of what I’ve already been doing, it’s a title promotion in terms of the university and I get to move my office about 10 feet,” said Meehan, who will occupy Manetta’s office. “It also provides me with an opportunity to do other things in terms of development and fund-raising and I’m very excited about that opportunity.”

Meehan also said the transition from Manetta to Wegrzyn will be a seamless one because of Wegrzyn’s past involvement in the athletic department, as the associate athletic director for external affairs from 1992-97.

“With Dave it’s like we never lost that connection,” she said. “He will be able to come right back here and we will work quite well together.”

Added Wegrzyn: “Ed and I have similar vision and one of the things I said last week as the reason that this position is able to work at St. John’s is because Ed Manetta left the athletic department in great shape. So many of the things that he’s done during his tenure are just going to be great building blocks for us for the future. We’re just going to continue the good work that Ed’s been doing.”

It has been a whirlwind couple of days for Wegrzyn, as evidenced by the bevy of phone messages on his desk and several piles of papers on the floor of his office. He said his first priority was to meet with some of the coaches that have been hired since he left the athletic department in 1997 and some of his long-term goals include more student participation both on the field and in the stands.

Plans for a new or renovated Alumni Hall are not currently in the works, he said.

“I’d like to make sure we’re offering the most opportunities for those students who matriculate here to be student-athletes as well,” he said. “There may be opportunities to expand teams and to have our students participate if we’re not capped by NCAA regulations, and just to insure that in five years we have the same fiscal stability that we have today and that we operate first and foremost with the student-athlete in mind.”

Wegrzyn knows the molding of two jobs into one will provide some long days and even longer weekends. But he says he is up to the challenge.

“There’s no time for a breath,” he said. “I took Father’s Day off. I’m taking a week’s vacation the Fourth of July, that’s about it.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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