Local resident Anthony Parlatore has been a longtime fan of Seawolf athletics. Sitting in the stands at basketball, football and lacrosse games over the years, he has witnessed an evolution.
"The progress, where it is now, it's light years ahead of where they were," Parlatore said. "I think it can be attributed to the vision of Jim Fiore."
Fiore, Stony Brook's current athletic director, arrived in 2003 after serving as Assistant Director of Athletics at Dartmouth College and then as Senior Associate Director of Athletics at Princeton University. Fiore inherited an NCAA Division III program that lacked many of the benchmarks of a successful athletic program, such as adequate facilities, a fundraising presence, a mascot, and a marching band. The program had won one conference championship in its history and student athletes were averaging a 2.7 GPA.
Today, Stony Brook athletics is a Division I program that has won 19 conference championships in the last 6 years. Its student athletes average a 3.0 GPA. Wolfie is among the NCAA's most beloved mascots, the Spirit of Stony Brook marching band boasts more than 100 musicians, and its upgraded facilities have hosted major events such as the 2006 and 2010 NCAA men's lacrosse quarterfinals and the 2011 women's lacrosse semifinals and final. Fiore has negotiated television contracts and secured funding for close to $80 million in facility upgrades.
"What I’m most proud of is the change in culture. ... People definitely respect us," Fiore said in a recent interview with Patch. "We have a swagger when we compete."
The nation will get to see the progression of Stony Brook athletics under Fiore's leadership when the school hosts the America East men's basketball championship game against Vermont this Saturday on ESPN 2. A win would send Stony Brook to its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.
Fiore described the program as "exploding."
"One day we aspire to be the premiere athletic program in the northeast alongside all major research universities," he said.
Fiore is a Long Beach native and is a graduate of Hofstra University – where he played free safety for the football team. He and his family now live in Three Village, which he called "a great place to raise a family."
"It’s really a community where the village can raise your child with you," he said. "It’s safe, it’s trustworthy, it’s great educationally. It’s been very welcoming of my family."
Brian McGinty, president of the Three Village Lacrosse Club, said Fiore's contributions to the local sports scene have been multifaceted. He has also done a good job of outreach to local community groups, getting them involved in Stony Brook athletics, McGinty said. For instance, the athletic department conducts sports clinics for local kids, invites them to play halftime games, and sends Wolfie to community events.
"It's his commitment to the teams and making them a product everyone wants to see," McGinty said. "They put out good teams."