A Legacy 30 Years in the Making
From a handful of NCAA sports in 1993 to 21 varsity programs and seven club teams today, Endicott Athletics has developed a national reputation for excellence.
The incredible legacy of Endicott College athletics was born in the early 1990s, when the College boldly transitioned to a four-year, co-ed institution in hopes of growing enrollment. A significant part of that strategy was to expand athletics to attract new students, especially men.
This year marks the Gulls’ 30th anniversary of joining NCAA DIII (which is itself celebrating a 50-year milestone); women’s soccer, women’s tennis, field hockey, women’s basketball, and women’s volleyball transitioned from NJCAA to NCAA in 1993. Since then, more and more programs have joined the flock, championships have piled up, and facilities like the Richard and Helen Post Sport Science and Fitness Center, North Field, Hempstead Stadium, Raymond J. Bourque Arena, and the Athletic Performance Center have turned Endicott’s campus into a student-athlete’s dream.
Today, Endicott offers 21 varsity programs and seven club sports. With over 100 NCAA Tournament appearances, Endicott is positioned as one of the nation’s top athletic programs. The Gulls shine academically as well—in 2022–23, the average GPA was at an all-time high at 3.41, and student-athletes clocked more than 4,000 hours of community service.
To get to this level, however, it took a lot of work.
Setting the scene
To kickstart an ambitious growth plan, Endicott hired Larry Hiser as the head coach of men’s basketball and baseball in 1994, and he became the Director of Athletics a year later. Charged with building fresh rosters of competitive teams, Hiser hit the recruiting road with early coaches like current Assistant Vice President and Director of Athletics Brian A. Wylie, Ph.D., (then the head men’s lacrosse coach), women’s soccer head coach Dr. Dina Gentile (now a Professor of Sport and Esport Management), and eventual head coach successor of men’s lacrosse Sean Quirk (current Associate Director, Athletics/Office of Admission Liaison).
They soon found that attracting student-athletes into brand new programs at a small fledgling college that few people had heard of was quite a challenge—but they were up to the task.
Success came from thinking outside the box for new locations to recruit for students and inspiring leadership from our then-president, the late Richard E. Wylie, who shared his vision for new facilities where there were only empty spaces and rock ledges.
While recruitment was an overall resounding win, it was not without its bumps.
Brian Wylie, also the Coordinator of Student Life and residence director in the first male residence hall, Ebinger (now the Wylie Inn and Conference Center), said the group learned a lot in those first years. The College had to find longer mattresses and raise chest-high shower heads in the bathrooms, for example, to accommodate taller student-athletes.
Hard work and resourcefulness got the Gulls through growing pains—staff, coaches, and even facilities all played multiple roles. Hiser recalls washing uniforms at home, just one of many similar stories. Multiple teams played on the lawn of historic Tupper Manor (then a residence hall and weekend wedding location), while the North Field served as the home field for lacrosse, baseball, soccer, and field hockey. Understandably, the opening of the Post Center in 1999 began a transformational shift in recruiting, enrollment, and student morale.
And it all worked. According to Hiser, Endicott teams were competitive from the start, thanks to good people and a growing reputation for following through on promises to students and parents.
“There’s really never been a bad era of Endicott athletics in 30 years,” he said. “We jumped into a good league and were soon dominant.”
Cultivating a winning reputation
Endicott has always been regarded as a place that is committed to providing the best possible student-athlete experience, according to Brian Wylie.
“We have some of the best coaches in all of DIII who recruit strong academically-focused students who also excel athletically,” he said.
That combination of academic excellence and athletic strength is what has had the most significant impact on Endicott as a whole, said Director of Sports Information Shawn Medeiros.
“I don’t think it’s any coincidence that as we get better athletically, our enrollment continues to go up,” he said. “When you showcase success constantly, like we’re able to do, and host high-profile tournaments, families notice.”
The department is fortunate that Endicott administration values what strong athletic programs contribute to a thriving campus, Brian Wylie added. President Steven R. DiSalvo, Ph.D., shared that while the athletic program was strong when he arrived four and a half years ago, he encouraged striving for continuous improvement.
“I recall meeting with all the coaches and telling them our collective goal was to get better every year,” he said. “They rose to the challenge with Endicott securing 13 out of 20 Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) championships, a national women’s rugby championship, the first football team to go undefeated in the regular season, a trip for the baseball team to the College World Series, and a Frozen Four hockey appearance hosted here at the Nest.”
Jenna Cosgrove ’09, a four-year student-athlete and captain of the Endicott women’s basketball team, is now the Head Women’s Basketball Coach at Rhode Island College. She said in the 14 years since she graduated, she has seen more development and enhancement of the student-athlete experience at Endicott than any other college.
“Now as an alumnus and opposing coach of a regional team competing in Division III, it is amazing to see the growth each year of Endicott Athletics,” she shared. “There isn’t an athletic program or campus that has come further in my opinion.”
If you ask anyone in Endicott athletics what’s on the horizon, you’ll get a consensus: the Gulls are poised to win an NCAA DIII national championship, something that Wylie said would have been “unthinkable” in the 1990s. As Medeiros predicted, “We’re knocking on the door.”
Joseph Millar ’22 M’23, captain of the 2022–23 baseball team that traveled to the College World Series, said the winning formula is in Endicott’s inclusive culture, sense of family, and motivation to win.
“The state-of-the-art facilities, paired with successful coaches, help prepare each student-athlete to compete at the highest level,” he explained. “With consistently high rankings in the Northeast, Endicott certainly is a national contender in Division III.”
President DiSalvo also predicts several teams to win NCAA national championships in the years to come.
“Endicott has led the surge to make the CCC a premier conference in the country, and we’ve made a statement that we belong in the national conversation,” he said.
The Learfield Cup, which ranks institutions based on athletic success, listed Endicott as 53 out of 430 DIII colleges last year. Not bad after Endicott’s humble beginnings.