Eric Zillmer, Drexel’s athletic director for the last 22 years, said he has decided to “step aside” from his post in charge of the athletic department at the end of the academic year.
A tenured neuropsychology professor who will continue to teach at Drexel and has a plan for a new venture after a one-year sabbatical, Zillmer is sixth in seniority among Division I ADs at a single school.
“With the current turmoil in higher education and a forecast of deregulation in intercollegiate athletics on the horizon, the timing seems perfect to allow a fresh set of eyes to lead Drexel athletics going forward,’' Zillmer said in a statement he provided to The Inquirer. “It will be interesting to see what the new ‘world order’ will be for college athletics as there will be great opportunities for the new Drexel AD to shape and re-imagine the future of the Dragons. It has been a good ride and I leave the program in great shape.”
The school said there will be a national search for Zillmer’s replacement.
Zillmer listed what he saw as a series of accomplishments, starting with high rankings for Drexel’s commitment to gender equity, noting how, in addition to men’s and women’s basketball successes, championships were earned in men’s lacrosse, women’s field hockey, men’s soccer, men’s swimming and diving, “as well as the Dad Vail Regatta and Women’s Henley Regatta titles in rowing. Several of Drexel’s teams ranked nationally, including the men’s and women’s teams in the squash program founded as a varsity Drexel sport only 10 years ago.”
With highs, including near misses for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament several times under former coach Bruiser Flint, have come lows. The men’s team, currently 8-7 overall and 3-5 in the Colonial Athletic Association, is trying to break a string of six straight under-.500 seasons. The Dragons’ record has improved each season under Zach Spiker, now in his fifth year in charge. The women’s program now is coached by Amy Mallon, in her first season after Denise Dillon took over at Villanova. The Dragons were top-seeded for last season’s CAA Tournament when it was shut down by COVID-19 concerns. Mallon’s team, hit by major graduation losses, is 9-6, 6-4.
In addition to teaching, Zillmer said he plans to develop what is to be called the Drexel Global Sport Leadership Solutions Lab, “a multidisciplinary think tank designed to understand, in a broad societal context, the lessons of teamwork in sports to transform lives, communities, and environments.”