When Brian Baptiste was named La Salle athletic director in early June, the most attention-worthy line on his resume was not only that he was coming from Northwestern, but also that he had been deputy athletic director for capital projects and operations.
A La Salle grad immediately quipped on Twitter: “La Salle is getting a beach.”
That’s because Northwestern has a beach on Lake Michigan next to its athletic complex.
What was Baptiste’s role in some of the bigger non-sand projects at his last stop?
“Basically everything from the design of those projects to helping with the development/fundraising piece — you’re talking about multiple phases of the construction project,’’ Baptiste said Tuesday at his formal introduction at La Salle. “Dealing with the branding piece, obviously managing the contractor, selecting the contractor, working with our campus partners … basically every phase of those projects.
"From a marketing standpoint, being able to talk about the project, obviously going out with development staff doing solicitations. Meeting with the trustees to talk about how those projects would impact the 19 programs and 504 student-athletes at Northwestern.”
La Salle president Colleen Hanycz nodded her head when Baptiste was asked about the importance of upgrading athletic facilities at 20th and Olney.
“It was very important to us that Brian had established himself as a leader in these projects — not only for what they represented clearly as brick and mortar, but more important, what they represented to me anyway, the ability to have a vision and execute on that vision, to bring others in to help, to deliver, to build and share that vision,’’ Hanycz said.
“That’s what I was looking for. I’ve been here now four years at La Salle. What has been one of my largest priorities is to build the right leadership team, the right executive team, that had skill, whatever the project was.”
A 2005 Towson University graduate who decided to go into athletic administration after getting his law degree and passing the bar in his native Maryland, Baptiste worked almost seven years at Northwestern, after working as an assistant compliance director at Georgetown and associate athletic director for compliance at Delaware.
What’s his first challenge? He said he’d have to take some time to assess everything.
“When it comes to our facilities, it is no secret that we have many miles to walk,’’ Hanycz said. “But we have the right man in place to lead us on that walk.”
Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips made the trip from Chicago to be at the introduction.
“We’re nearing $500 million in the last seven or eight years of athletic-facility renovations or new construction,’’ Phillips said.
“All of these things will be done this summer,’’ Hanycz had joked about what will take place at his new stop.
“He’s been prepared,’’ Phillips said. “When you’re hungry and you’re motivated and you have a blue-collar mentality, that fits Philadelphia. His stops along … he’s seen a lot of different aspects of what an athletic department can and should be. I think it’s a well-rounded portfolio he brings to La Salle. This is a significant loss for us at Northwestern, but a huge gain for La Salle and a huge moment in his career.”
Phillips said Baptiste, taking over for Bill Bradshaw, passed on several other opportunities to run athletic departments.
“He just didn’t feel like they were a fit,’’ Phillips said. “Philadelphia to him was a fit. La Salle is a great fit. He was very choosy, and I wanted him to be.”
No signs of a beach coming to Olney Avenue, but they’re trying to think big around there.