A major marketing push for St. Bonaventure's athletic program began five years ago, after it found a new athletic director at Auburn University of the powerful Southeastern Conference. That emphasis will continue with a new AD from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Gothard Lane, who has spent 18 years in athletic administration at the University of Maryland, was named the school's new vice president and AD Tuesday. Lane, 52, replaces David Diles, who left in July to accept a similar position at Eastern Michigan.
"St. Bonaventure has a great tradition and I'm a firm believer that tradition plays a big part in your program," Lane said Tuesday by phone from his office in College Park, Md. "The town and the university are very supportive of the athletic department. So is Dr. Wickenheiser (university president Robert Wickenheiser). He's an aggressive president."
Lane, 52, has a long background in fund raising and marketing, keys to his appointment. Under Diles, the school has embarked on an beefed-up sponsorship campaign. Corporate banners adorn one wall of the Reilly Center arena and personal seat licenses were sold for half of the courtside bleachers, which were turned into chairback seating.
"They've done a spectacular job," Lane said. "You don't see chairback seating like that in a school of this size in too many places."
The changes have been unpopular with segments of alumni, but the school deemed them necessary to stay competitive in the Atlantic 10. Bona was woefully behind some of its rivals in resources because schools like Virginia Tech, UMass and Temple were raking in millions of dollars from appearances in football bowls or the NCAA basketball tournament.
"The Atlantic 10 is very attractive to me because it's a very diverse conference, not unlike the ACC," Lane said. "St. Bonaventure can be like a Wake Forest, a school with just a few thousand students that competes with a Maryland that has 30,000. Look at the Atlantic 10: You go all the way from smaller schools like St. Joe's and St. Bona to Virginia Tech and Temple and there's still room to be successful."
Lane will begin his post at Bona Oct. 11, just before the start of basketball practice. Even though it is coming off a 14-15 season, coach Jim Baron's men's team will have high expectations because it may start three seniors (Tim Winn, Caswell Cyrus and David Messiah Capers) and a junior (Peter Van Paassen).
"Jim has done a good job there and he's got an experienced ballclub coming back this year," Lane said. "People are really looking forward to the season. Their excitement is evident."
Lane was a Division I football coach for 15 years, directing defensive backs at Virginia Tech and Tulane and outside linebackers at Maryland. He has been in administration since 1981.
At Maryland, he has been involved in a $50 million athletic department capital campaign, hosting and marketing of NCAA championships in 12 sports, compliance and athlete certification. He served 15 years as assistant director of varsity sports and the last three years as assistant director of campus recreation, overseeing fund-raising for the $40 million Campus Recreation Center.
More than 30 percent of Bona's alumni contribute to the school's annual campaigns, an unusually high number, and Lane said that is a huge asset.
"I have never been around a school where people seemed to love it so much," he said. "Since it was announced I'm taking the job, I've had phone calls and E-mails from people I don't even know congratulating me and saying they can't wait to hear me come speak to their group."