New York Institute of Technology president Henry C. “Hank’’ Foley has ambitious plans to upgrade the college’s intercollegiate athletic program. A former high-level administrator at Penn State and Missouri, Foley envisions a new multi-purpose fieldhouse for the Division II school in Old Westbury.
Only three months into his job, one of Foley’s main goals is raising funds to construct a facility that would replace decades-old Recreation Hall, a 500-capacity venue with pull-out bleachers. He estimates the price tag to be between 25 and 40 million dollars.
`We’ve got to go out and reconnect with alumni to help us kick-start the fundraising part of this,’’ Foley, 61, said Thursday at NYIT as he named Dan Vélez director of athletics. “A lot of it we will do it ourselves, but we also have to get some help from the outside.’’
Foley’s time frame for the new fieldhouse is “less than or equal to five years.’’
LIU Post, NYIT’s next-door neighbor and East Coast Conference rival, plays its indoor sports contests in the 77,000 square-foot Pratt Recreation Center, which opened in 2002 at a cost of $18.5 million. A large donation was made by Jeanette and Edmund T. Pratt Jr., the late chairman and CEO of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. NYIT has no such benefactors.
There is a fiscal crisis in many small private institutions — on Long Island Southampton and Dowling have closed — so raising such a large amount at NYIT would appear monumental. But not to Foley.
“Not at all,’’ he said. “Not a bit. I’m used to numbers that are 10 times larger in D-I, so, no, it doesn’t stagger me at all. I’ve been through a lot of development campaigns where people at the beginning of the campaign they’ll say it can’t be done. I think what you have to have is a compelling vision and a story to tell and you’ve got to convince people on that basis and then we’ll take it from there, we’ll see where it goes.’’
Foley will be consulted on fundraising for the project by Rodney C. Kirsch, a former colleague at Penn State who, according to the university, led capital campaigns totaling $4.4 billion in his 20 years as senior vice president for development and alumni relations.
“It starts with the president,’’ Kirsch said. “My experiences in terms of successful fundraising have been because we had very engaged and supportive presidents, we’ve had a board [of trustees] that have been generous and engaged in being good volunteers and a strong staff. Hank is a gregarious guy, he’s energetic, he’s a doer.’’
Fundraising starts on a grassroots level, Kirsch said.
“That’s kind of the heart of where a lot of good fundraising starts. Major gifts of half a million, a million, five million dollars don’t just come easy. None of this is rocket science but it does take a lot of work and lot of strategy and investment in both infrastructure and the staff that will need to do it,’’ he said.
Kirsch said it is way too early to determine if the fundraising required for the NYIT project is “wildly crazy or a slam dunk. I’d be blowing smoke in either direction,’’ he said.
Foley came to NYIT in June after serving as interim chancellor at Missouri. He earned a reported $459,000 in that position. Former NYIT president Edward Guiliano was paid $1.1 million, according to a 2015 survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Foley spoke fondly of his exposure to big-time college athletics when he was a vice president at Penn State.
“There are no words to explain it,’’ he said of watching a football game at Beaver Stadium. “It’s so large, it’s so loud, it’s so intense and actually so much fun. People really enjoy it.’’
Foley does not see football in the offing at NYIT. He does intend to take a look at potentially reviving track and field, which produced Olympic-caliber athletes until it was disbanded more than a decade ago.
Foley said he wants his athletes to “feel like they’re D-I student-athletes,’’ but does not foresee elevating to that level. “I’d really like to be a powerhouse in D-II and then we see where we go from there,’’ he said. ``For now, that’s the goal, that’s the end game.’’