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Transforming the atmosphere

| Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2006

Greg Amodio reflected on his first year as the athletic director at Duquesne University with humor and humility.

"I sit back sometimes and think, 'Gee, I haven't gotten anything done,' " he said. "But when you step back and look, there are some good things."

One year after being hired, Amodio is receiving high marks from coaches, players and administrators.

Whether he was hiring men's basketball coach Ron Everhart, unveiling a new logo, approving an assistant women's rowing coach or meeting estranged basketball fans for lunch, Amodio has directed a top-to-bottom change in the athletic department.

"The whole atmosphere is different," women's volleyball coach Steve Opperman said. "Things are getting done."

Amodio, who replaced 16-year AD Brian Colleary, made his biggest move March 29 when he hired Everhart to replace Danny Nee. Everhart, who came from Northeastern University after a four-week search, put together the nation's deepest recruiting class and rekindled enthusiasm in the sagging program.

"It's becoming fun again and exciting to be a Duquesne athletic fan," Amodio said. "We're trying to make everything better, not just men's basketball."

Amodio, who came to Duquesne after a decade in the athletic department at A-10 rival Xavier, also hired a men's soccer coach and oversaw the completion of upgrades to A.J. Palumbo Center.

Other behind-the-scenes improvements weren't given as much fanfare. Amodio, who oversees 20 varsity sports, in the past year has:

• Brought on a new director of marketing and director of compliance, and added more personnel to the academic services department.

• Approved full-time assistant coaches for men's and women's soccer programs.

• Improved relations with the Dukes Court, a booster group, and the Red and Blue Crew, a student-run organization.

In between, he found a new home in the northern suburbs that met the nodding approval of his wife, Kerry, and their two children.

"He's had a fantastic year," said Massachusetts athletic director John McCutcheon, a Sewickley native. "He's brought energy to the program and Atlantic 10 basketball. He's a quality guy and a huge contribution to the conference. He's a real positive."

The man who hired Amodio, 44, to a four-year contract, Duquesne president Dr. Charles Dougherty, is pleased.

"Greg has had an outstanding first year," Dougherty said.

The improvements are everywhere. The new athletic department offices are part of a $2 million renovation at A.J. Palumbo Center. New coaches offices, strength and conditioning areas and a recruitment center were part of the facelift.

The fresh logo, a red, white and blue Duke, gleams at midcourt on the renovated floor.

"His energy and enthusiasm permeates the whole department," Everhart said. "In my book, if you could pick the perfect boss ... that would be Greg Amodio."

Amodio's most pressing mission is to restore the glow to a once-proud men's basketball program with one winning season in the past 20 years.

Amodio got an up-close look at the disastrous Dukes last season, the worst in the school's history. The Dukes went 3-24, their 12th consecutive losing mark. They averaged 1,529 fans at a cavernous Palumbo Center, the lowest number since 1960, when the school started keeping attendance records.

Amodio, who helped market Xavier to near sellouts every game, realized quickly how far the basketball program had fallen. He took a grassroots approach. His energy and enthusiasm were well received.

Amodio recalled one luncheon, when he and Everhart met with some disgruntled Duquesne alumni. Before they were finished, Amodio said one of the men, encouraged by the new regime, pulled out his checkbook, and bought season tickets with a substantial donation on top.

"The nicest thing is to find people who were disenfranchised are coming back," Amodio said. "They see things are being done in a different way. We'll have some success and some failures. But we've just got to show a level of improvement with everything that we do."

Mark Dudash is another optimistic alumnus. The 47-year-old attorney from Mt. Lebanon played football for the Dukes and earned his law degree at the school. He met his wife at Duquesne, and both of their daughters attend the school.

An outspoken critic of Colleary, Dudash is impressed with Amodio.

"Greg is very, very professional," he said. "He's a class act, and he brought a lot of new ideas."

One of Amodio's main tasks in his second year will be to find a new conference for the school's Division I-AA football team and continue to build basketball attendance. While he wouldn't disclose any numbers, Amodio said early ticket sales are encouraging.

Amodio, a former promotions manager for the PGA Tour, is determined to liven up the atmosphere at A.J. Palumbo Center. Some of the upgrades to the court at the 20-year-old facility include two new Dektronic scoreboards, new press row tables and 20 premium, courtside seats that sold out in July.

As for attracting students, the Red and Blue Crew has changed from a loose-knit group into a recognized campus club that receives funding.

Duquesne will target six games for marketing -- the home opener (Nov. 10, 11 or 13), West Virginia and A-10 opponents Dayton, Xavier, Temple and Charlotte.

"We're moving forward," Amodio said. "We got a lot of good things done, and there are a lot more good things to come."

Amodio's biggest ally is Everhart, who will make his boss' job much easier if he builds a winner.

"Ron and I have a similar mind-set of trying to move the program forward," Amodio said. "Now and over the next three to five years, whatever it might be."

Additional Information:

Honor roll

Athletic director Greg Amodio was busy in his first year at Duquesne:

Aug. 18, 2005 - Former Xavier associate athletic director hired as new AD

Sept. 1, 2005 - Begins four-year contract

Jan. 13 - Hires Mark Geller as director of marketing

March 3 - Announces men's basketball coach Danny Nee has resigned

March 29 - Hires basketball coach Ron Everhart

March 29 - Names Jake Ouimet head coach of nationally ranked men's soccer team

July 25 - Unveils new athletics logo

July 28 - Refacing of A.J. Palumbo floor completed as part of $2 million renovation


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