The Ithaca College Office of Intercollegiate Athletics announced April 14 that it had hired Will Rothermel as its new associate director of athletics for compliance, facilities and events. Rothermel comes from an extensive background in administrative athletic leadership, as he is leaving his current position as assistant athletic director for corporate development at Division I Virginia Commonwealth University to work at Ithaca College beginning June 1.
Sports Editor Kristen Gowdy spoke with Rothermel about his hiring, his experience as both a student-athlete and athletic administrator, and his goals for the college in the near future.
Kristen Gowdy: What appealed to you about the position at the college?
Will Rothermel: That’s a good question. I think the reputation that Ithaca has in the Northeast, having grown up in Maine and gone to college in Vermont, and also having some friends who attended Ithaca, I kind of knew the general reputation and the quality academic institution that it was. Then I started to learn a little bit more about the athletic success and the academic qualities of the school, started to learn more about the people. And especially once I got on campus, that gave me a great feel for what kind of community Ithaca College was. Being that it’s a residential campus, a smaller liberal arts school — I went to a small liberal arts college in Vermont — so it’s very akin to that, and it just had that feel when I was on campus that it was a great fit and that I could really relate to that setting — not just the colleagues, not necessarily just the people in the athletics department, but also people across campus and the student-athletes in particular. I think that really sets it over the top as far as when things clicked. I sat down with those student-athletes for lunch. It was really neat to get their perspective and relate it to my experience when I was at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. It was really that light bulb moment when I said, “This is the right place for me.”
KG: What do you see as your biggest strengths that you bring to the position?
WR: I think my variety of experience from a multitude of levels and divisions and areas within college athletics. I’ve been at Division II, Division I schools, some that have both Division II and Division I. I think that perspective of seeing how things can be done at different levels with limited resources, with not-so-limited resources, I think there’s something to be said about having an appreciation for wearing a number of different hats and doing a number of different jobs. Then also having that experience at a higher level school like Virginia Commonwealth where you’re more specialized, but you’re also doing bigger jobs and doing bigger events and dealing with much more in the way of dollars and sellouts and games that are attended by the masses. I think the variety of experiences is probably going to be my biggest asset, but I think having the ability to identify with the student-athletes at Ithaca will be a close second.
KG: You were a student-athlete at the Division II level and have since worked both in Division I and II. How do you think the Division III atmosphere will be different for you?
WR: I think a lot of times people get caught up in divisions and being so different from one another, and really I think my experience at Saint Michael’s, even though basketball was a scholarship sport there, I was actually a walk-on. I had no athletic scholarships, it was all academic. So I really lived what I feel is the Division III model, and that was a big part in developing me as a student, not just as a student-athlete. Part of that can be tied back to my experience of being a walk-on at Saint Michael’s, having to earn a spot on the team. A lot of times I think people get caught up in divisions being so different from one another, but really I think there’s so many things that are transferrable, that if you do them well at the Division I or Division II, you can apply those principles to Division III and still do them very well.
KG: What are your goals for the athletic department from your position?
WR: My overarching goal is to develop and grow and help Ithaca do the same thing. I think there’s a lot of potential. Even though Ithaca is in a great position from an academic standpoint and an athletic standpoint, I think there’s still a lot of growth potential in the years to come. I think working alongside Susan Bassett and her team will really allow the opportunity to do some things that will lead to our success and the success of our student-athletes and coaches and will hopefully bring championships to Ithaca College.