A talk with Athletics Director
Dick Regan ’76
By Jack O’Connell ’81
Q: How does it feel to be walking around this
campus again after 25 years?
A: It’s funny, because I’ve been out of the country
for a long time, and even before that, I was wrapped up in
the NFL and the New England Patriots, so I wasn’t close
to the collegiate scene for about 15 years. Still, it really
hasn’t changed that much. The times have changed more
than Holy Cross has. We continue to focus on academics first,
yet we still value our athletic tradition. In the past 18
months I have had a number of situations where I had to deal
closely with some of our athletes. I was enormously impressed
with the quality of student that comes to Holy Cross. The
type of person who attended Holy Cross 20-30 years ago is
still the type of person who gravitates to the school today.
This is a caring environment. There’s a sense of community.
Q: You are just about to complete two years as athletics
director of Holy Cross. What’s it been like?
A: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed coming back to Holy Cross.
I knew it would be quite a transition, going from the business
world into academia. In fact, it has been, perhaps, a bigger
transition than I would have expected. Most of my experience
has been in professional sports.
Q: Without pinning you down to a black or white picture,
are the changes for the better or for the worse?
A: I’m not sure if it’s a question of good or
bad—it’s just different. For a college athlete
to play in Division I athletics, it is almost a full-time
job. Athletes have always worked out throughout the year
to keep in shape, but the training is much more formal and
structured now. It used to be that a team played in a certain
season and that was more or less it, except for captain’s
practices and off-season conditioning. Now, most sports have
a “non-traditional” season. Let’s take
a sport like field hockey or soccer. Players are allowed
to practice as a team for 132 days. Field hockey and soccer
are both fall sports, but the fall season may only take up
75 or 80 days. Team members may have 50-55 days, or, say,
11 five-day weeks of formal practice in the spring. And that’s
just full-team practices. In addition, there are formal strength
and conditioning programs which are essentially mandatory
and, further, there is “skill instruction” where
a coach is allowed to work with a limited number of athletes
at a time. Regardless of the sport, the athletes never get
much of a break.
Q: Is there too much pressure on college athletes in general?
Do we expect too much from them?
A: I don’t think student-athletes feel undue pressure,
as this has become the norm. The world has changed—people
seem to be more focused in general. You hear, anecdotally,
of 10-12-year-old-kids who will drop a sport they enjoy and
play well because they want to focus on one sport. I think
it’s a sad development. In the old days, young people
would play three or four sports in the course of a year and
have fun, and, by the time they were in high school, their
focus would have narrowed to one or two. But now, parents
seem to be pushing their children at a much younger age.
The bar keeps getting raised, and the ramification of this,
at an academically rigorous school like Holy Cross, is that
it is much more intense today.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge in the last two
A: I would say the biggest challenge we’ve faced in
my two years is dealing with gender equity. I met with representatives
of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), from the U.S. Department
of Education within five weeks of my arrival; they made it
clear that, while they had conducted an audit of our athletic
program, it was not closed, and, in their view, we had a
way to go.
Q: Was this a surprise to you?
A: I knew that gender equity was an issue. It is everywhere
today in intercollegiate athletics. In retrospect, I didn’t
fully appreciate at the outset the distance we still needed
to go. However, we are committed to gender equity, and
it has been very satisfying to have both the OCR and NCAA
approve our plan.
Q: What does the Office for Civil Rights consider in determining
whether a college or university is in compliance?
A: OCR’s foremost concern is that participation in
athletics reflects enrollment. For example, in recent years,
female enrollment at Holy Cross has been approximately 52
percent. In 1995, when the OCR began its audit, female participation
in varsity sports was 43 percent. With the changes we are
implementing—primarily, the addition of women’s
ice hockey this year and women’s golf next year—female
participation will approximate 47 percent.
Q: Is that a problem? There is still a gap of 5 percent
between participation and enrollment.
A: Not necessarily. The first way to be in compliance is
to have participation equal enrollment. If it does not, the
second method of compliance is to have a continuing history
of adding sports for the underrepresented sex. As we had
not added a new sport for either sex in 16 years prior to
adding women’s ice hockey this year, this clearly was
not an avenue to compliance for Holy Cross. The third method,
which is commonly referred to as the “third prong,” gives
an opportunity for compliance despite a gap in participation
if the interest and ability of the underrepresented sex are
Q: How does the impetus to achieve gender equity effect
a college athletic program?
A: Title IX has changed the face of athletics in many ways.
Clearly, it has created an environment in which women athletes
can flourish. It’s provided them with opportunities
they simply didn’t have 20 or 30 years ago. When I
graduated from Holy Cross 24 years ago, we had 17 varsity
sports—14 men’s and three women’s. Next
year, we will have 27 varsity sports—13 men’s
and 14 women’s sports. We’ve gone from approximately
350 varsity athletes to about 650 varsity athletes, and that
growth has been entirely women. Clearly there is a cost associated
with that type of growth. Right now, almost 25 percent of
our student body participates in varsity athletics. That’s
an extremely high number. By way of comparison, Boston College’s
participation is roughly 9 percent and Georgetown’s
is somewhere around 10 or 11 percent.
Q: It does point to the fact that a smaller liberal arts
college is going to be affected financially, very quickly,
by a change like that.
A: There is no question about it. For example, if you look
at Georgetown, they have approximately the same number of
athletes as Holy Cross, yet they have 6,000 students paying
tuition, while we have only 2,700. Boston College projects
that it will have approximately 800 varsity athletes once
some sports are dropped and they have over 9,000 students.
As a result, if Holy Cross tried to support a sport at the
same level, the cost would be proportionately much higher
here. Looked at in another way, while the Holy Cross student
body hasn’t grown materially in size over the past
25 years, the number of varsity athletes has almost doubled.
So, while requirements for things such as faculty and housing
may have increased somewhat, in a relative sense, they have
not increased nearly as dramatically as athletic requirements.
The bottom line is that the financial pressure on the athletic department has
increased quite a bit over time.
Q: So what do you do when your requirements have begun to
outpace your budget year after year?
A: You have to manage your department as prudently as possible.
You have to take a hard look at where you allocate your resources.
And, I think, you also have to look at ways of expanding
your resources through enhancing revenue—by increasing
attendance, which is difficult to do, and fund raising—something
we have not done historically. You may have to make some
hard decisions. I’m pleased that, so far, Holy Cross
has not had to drop any sports.
Many schools have had to drop sports lately. Wrestling in general and baseball
in the Northeast, in particular, have suffered. Boston College has announced
that they’re dropping wrestling, men’s water polo and lacrosse.
Boston University has dropped football and baseball. The University of New
Hampshire has dropped baseball. Colgate has dropped baseball. Providence has
dropped baseball, men’s tennis and men’s golf. Perhaps those decisions
weren’t all entirely due to gender equity, but it was certainly a major
factor in each case. Most institutions initially address Title IX by adding
women’s sports. That was the intent of the law—to create opportunities
for women. However, after initially adding women’s sports, what many
colleges have had to do is achieve gender equity by subtraction rather than
addition—an institution reaches a point where it just can’t afford
to allocate more money for athletics. Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t
create any more opportunities for women, it just limits opportunities for men.
Q: Why does baseball seemed to be such a vulnerable sport?
A: Primarily two factors: the academic calendar and the weather
in the northern part of the country. Classes at Holy Cross
end May 1 this year. Spring sports are the most difficult
to adapt to an academic calendar. First, the end of the
season conflicts directly with final exams. This does not
happen with fall or winter sports. So spring sports in
general are more vulnerable. Second, baseball is affected
more by weather than other sports. By contrast, lacrosse
can be played in almost any weather. Further, the baseball
schedule generally consists of 45-55 games while lacrosse
Q: Does Holy Cross face the prospect of similar cuts?
A: It’s hard to say right now. Our goal is to avoid
dropping programs, and we have been successful so far. I’m
hoping that we will be able to continue to find resourceful
means of maintaining gender equity without dropping men’s
Q: What are your feelings about athletic fund raising?
A: It’s an avenue we haven’t explored to any
great degree in the past, but it’s something we want
to take a look at now. In 1996, the Board of Trustees formed
a committee to study athletics at Holy Cross. One of the
conclusions of the study was that fund raising for athletics
should be investigated. Just about every other Division 1
institution that I am aware of is involved in this to some
degree. Obviously, there are risks to athletic fund raising
if not properly managed. Just look at some of the abuses
that have taken place involving booster clubs. But we believe
this can be done in a proper way that is consistent with
the mission of Holy Cross.
Q: How do you go about exploring this avenue?
A: There are a lot of models to consider. It’s a question
of analyzing all the options, finding the right fit for us
and then implementing it.
Q: Can we talk about football for a minute?
A: My view is that when the NCAA split into I-A and I-AA,
it dramatically changed the face of college football. Right
now in basketball, we are in Division I, the top division.
We’ve been near the bottom of the Division for the
past several years, but we will get higher. There’s
no question about that. But we are still playing in the
big league. We’re in the same Division as Duke and
St. John’s and Michigan State. When football split
into 1-A and 1-AA, the 1-AA division picked up a lesser
status that’s difficult to shake. We had the same
problem in the NFL with the World League of American Football.
I think that if you were to ask most sports fans to name
the national champions in I-AA football over the last few
years very few people would be able to. What essentially
happened, in my view, is that the middle ground in college
football more or less disappeared. A team either went up
or went down. And for a school of 1,300 males, with a total
student population of 2,700—and given the minimum
stadium and attendance requirements of 1-A—there
is simply no way that we could have contemplated Division
Q: What are our current objectives in football?
A: Our objectives are simple: We want to be good where we
are, at the 1-AA level. We want to beat Colgate and Lehigh.
We want to beat Harvard and Yale. We want to beat these
teams more often than we lose. Like other sports, we want
to create an opportunity for our students to be in a competitive
situation where they have a fair chance to succeed.
Q: What are your feelings about the Patriot League?
A: We have a commitment to the Patriot League. We wanted
to get together with like-minded schools that were primarily
focused on academics, but who wanted to have competitive
athletic programs. Clearly it was modeled, more or less,
on the Ivy League. Right now, in football, for example,
there are a lot of schools in the 1-AA division providing
scholarships and they’re feeling the financial squeeze.
I could tell you of three or four schools right now in
1-AA that are unhappy with the financial burden of 63 football
scholarships and the required 63 corresponding scholarships
in women’s sports. The whole idea behind the Patriot
League is to get good academic institutions together—schools
that have athletics in the proper perspective and that
still want to be competitive. In football, we’re
comfortable with the level of play in the Patriot League.
We haven’t been comfortable with our performance
at that level, but we’re comfortable with the level
itself. Now, basketball has been a different situation.
We want to see the Patriot League strengthen itself in
this area. Ironically, in other non-revenue sports, the
league is extremely strong—in soccer and lacrosse,
Q: What are our objectives in basketball?
A: We have high aspirations for our basketball programs.
We want to see both our women and men in the NCAA tournament.
I believe that the men can accomplish this within two or
three years. The women are already there. We want to see
both teams make it past the first round of play. I’d
like to think that within this decade both of them can
make it to the Sweet Sixteen. Now that’s a far cry
from where we’ve been, but if you want to know our
goal, what we hope to achieve, there you have it.
Q: Let’s talk a bit about non-revenue sports. What’s
your feeling about them?
A: The study that was conducted by our Trustees in 1996 concluded
that we need to become more competitive in our non-revenue
sports. The important thing is to provide all of our students
with as positive a college experience as possible. Most of
the feedback I get from alumni has to do with football and
basketball. But if you take football and men’s and
women’s basketball out of the equation, there are still
over 500 student-athletes here participating in varsity sports,
and these people deserve a positive experience. It’s
part of our school’s mission, and it’s a big
part of my job. Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources
to be outstanding in 27 sports in Division 1. So, in some
cases, we have to be realistic about what we’re capable
of accomplishing. As a rule, I would like all of our athletes
to be able to step onto the court or the field or whatever
the arena and feel that they are competitive and have a chance
of winning. In some cases, we may have to seek a different
level at which to compete. However, we remain committed to
being a Division I school and I don’t see that ever
Q: What about a sport like soccer? How does that fit?
A: Soccer is a sport that is enjoying tremendous growth in
America. It’s the most popular sport in the world,
and a sport I would like to see flourish at Holy Cross.
We’ve got good coaches. Our only drawback is the
lack of an appropriate playing facility and locker rooms
and we’ll have to address that if we want to be competitive
Q: Do you think there’s still the passion for Holy
Cross athletics that there was in the ’40s or ’50s
A: One change I have noticed is that interest in sports is
much more diffused today than it was 25 years ago. Sports
such as hockey, soccer and lacrosse are commanding more interest
than they did a generation ago. Women’s sports have
made a quantum leap during this period. I think that the
sports actually compete with each other for attention. If
the women’s basketball team is playing Tuesday night
and the men are playing on Wednesday, students who have a
test or a major paper due that week may decide to attend
only one of the events. My recollection as a student is that
there was football in the fall and men’s basketball
in the winter, and that was about it. As those two sports
have had a rough history recently, it appears as if there
isn’t as much interest in athletics. While there is
some truth to that, I really believe that that the passion
and interest is spread quite a bit more throughout several
Q: Personally, what’s your most memorable
Holy Cross sports moment?
A: That’s tough. The one that stands out the most,
I think, occurred in 1977, when Holy Cross beat Providence
in basketball. At the end of the game, Providence was holding
a one-point lead, and Mike Vicens stripped the ball from
Bob Miscevicius, raced the down court and did a behind-the-head-slam-dunk.
I think that most would have done a timid lay-up, but Mike
punctuated it with an emphatic dunk. For whatever reason,
that moment has stayed in my mind more than any other.