Dayton stays in house to hire Neil Sullivan as AD

Neil Sullivan grew up in Mars, Pa., a small town 25 miles north of Pittsburgh. His dad was a ceramics engineer. Nobody in his family worked in athletics.

Sullivan played football, basketball and baseball in high school and might have been able to play basketball at the Division III level, but he wanted to go to Penn State and knew he wasn’t good enough to play there. As a student, he found a job in the athletic department and worked in the football office and basketball office and, in his words, “just kept going.”

Sullivan’s journey continued at the University of Dayton. Ted Kissell hired Sullivan in 2006, and he rose to deputy athletic director. On Friday, UD named Sullivan, 35, its new vice president and director of athletics.

Sullivan is the second-youngest AD in school history after Tom Frericks, who was 32 when hired in 1964.

“I’m really just honored and excited about the momentum we have,” Sullivan said in a press conference at UD Arena. “My goal is to accelerate that momentum and continue to accelerate on the court, on the field, in the classroom and in the community.”

Sullivan takes the reins during a turbulent week. The university announced Sunday the star of the men’s basketball team, senior Dyshawn Pierre, is not enrolled at school.

On Thursday, the Dayton Daily News reported UD investigated Pierre after an allegation of sexual assault. On Thursday night, attorney Peter R. Ginsberg announced Pierre would challenge the university’s handling of the matter and his client denies any inappropriate conduct.

Asked what it is like to get the job during such a time, Sullivan said, “We’re really unable to comment about any individual student matters due to federal privacy laws. I understand the question, but I’m just unable to comment.”

Sullivan has worked closely with Dayton men’s basketball coach Archie Miller and his staff and team over the years, helping with scheduling, recruiting and anything else the program might need.

Sullivan and Miller grew up 27 miles apart. Miller, of Beaver Falls, is one year older. Sullivan said they never played against each other in high school basketball but might have crossed paths in pickup basketball.

“He was at another level,” Sullivan said.

In a statement, Miller called Sullivan a tireless worker who’s as loyal and ethical as anyone he has worked with.

“Speaking for our program,” Miller said, “we couldn’t be more excited to have his support and leadership moving into the future.”

Tim Wabler, who retired in September after seven years on the job, groomed Sullivan for this position. Still, UD President Dan Curran said ths school conducted an extensive national search and Sullivan beat out numerous other candidates.

“Neil went through this and came through with flying colors,” Curran said. “He was the top candidate. He earned this position. I know he’s been here for nine years. I know he he has great connections. He knows the NCAA. He knows the A-10. He knows the media people. He knows the donors.”

At his first press conference, Sullivan faced a scheduling question that has followed UD’s athletic directors for years. Would Dayton consider playing Wright State in men’s basketball?

“Right now, I’m satisfied with the current scheduling model we have,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan also answered the Xavier question. Does Dayton want to get Xavier back on the schedule? The Flyers might face the Musketeers in the Advocare Invitational in Orlando in November, but they are not on the regular-season schedule for the third straight season.
“We would look forward to playing Xavier,” he said. “As leagues have changed and schedules have changed, a lot of things have to match up for that to happen, but there’s certainly interest on our end for playing Xavier in the future.”

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