By KEVIN McNAMARA
PROVIDENCE – Robert Driscoll, Providence College’s athletic director for the past 21 years and a current Vice President at the college, will retire at the end of this school year, sources tell KevinMcSports.
PC formally announced Driscoll’s retirement in a news release Friday morning and a press conference is set for Sunday at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
Driscoll will leave behind a legacy at PC as an athletic leader who helped transform the college’s athletic facilities but also brand the program far and wide. It was Driscoll, after all, who helped lead a push to call PC ‘Friartown,’ a moniker that has clearly stuck. As one Big East protégé said of Driscoll after news of his retirement broke, ‘Bob the Builder, one of my favorites!’
“I feel so fortunate that I have been able to spend the last 21 years as a member of the Providence College family,” Driscoll said in a statement issued by the school. “I came to Providence with a goal of a student-centered vision for athletics. I feel like I have played a part in creating a model program in college athletics with the student-athlete experience at the center of our vision. The support from the College, which included the leadership of Fr. Sicard, Fr. Shanley and Fr. Smith, was instrumental in putting us in a position to succeed. I also have had the honor to work with so many talented administrators and coaches, who have been great teammates and provided wisdom and guidance to help us reach our goals. I have a deep appreciation for the fans and donors who have supported our vision and have helped us transform our athletic department. And lastly, none of this would have been possible without the love and support of my wife, Cathy, and my three children, Tara, Kelly and Sean.”
Over the past two decades Driscoll has helped lead PC athletics to one of the most successful eras in the school’s history. When he arrived from the University of California-Berkeley, Driscoll inherited a program that had enjoyed intermittent success in the Big East and Hockey East despite Division 3 facilities and middling financial support. He immediately set out on establishing an athletic fundraising culture at the school and that helped change the entire focus of the department.
PC’s Friars Athletic Fund, led by its fundraising and development staff, has been instrumental elevating the entire program. According to the athletic department web site, the Fund has exceeded its goals on a yearly basis, exceeding $7 million in cash donations annually. During Driscoll’s 21 years at the College, the department has fundraised more than $100 million and annual donations have increased by 700 percent.
An array of new facilities that have benefitted men’s and women’s sports followed, as did some high-level winning. On the men’s basketball front Driscoll can be credited with hiring Ed Cooley back in 2011. With the Big East transitioning away from its former football partners two years later, the Friars took off and enjoyed a five-year run in the NCAA Tournament (2014-18). That’s the longest stretch in program history.
Driscoll was also the man who brought men’s hockey coach Nate Leaman to Providence in April of 2011. Leaman was an instant success, elevating the team in Hockey East, producing All-Americans and coaching the team back into the NCAA Tournament. By 2015, the Friars were one of the elite teams in the country and reached the Frozen Four for the fourth time in program history and first time since 1985. At the 2015 Frozen Four at TD Garden, the Friars upset Boston University and won the program’s first national championship.
The national championship was PC’s third in any sport, but second under Driscoll. In 2013 the women’s cross-country team led by legendary coach Ray Treacy claimed the College’s second NCAA title.
Driscoll’s persona as a leader certainly permeated through the athletic department. He led a branding effort that created ‘Friartown’ and sparked the creation of a host of billboards that are currently seen everywhere from T.F. Green Airport to signs on the Thurber’s Avenue curve on Route 95. He is also fond of ending commercials, conversations, meetings and even his answering machine message with a ‘Go Friars!’ exultation.
A walk across PC’s campus speaks to Driscoll’s impact in the creation and rehabilitation of virtually every athletic facility. From an upgraded Schneider Arena for hockey, to the new Concannon Fitness Center and Chapey Field at Anderson Stadium, the Ray Treacy Track and more. The latest showpiece is the $35 million Ruane Friar Development Center that houses the men’s basketball team and provides athlete training and performance facilities to the entire athletic department.
“Bob has been an amazing coach, leader and friend during my 11 years at Providence College,” PC’s Cooley said in a release. “His ability to think outside the box and be creative are just a few the qualities that helped make him so effective. Not only has he been a visionary athletic director, but he has been a mentor and a father figure, who has helped me grow. Bob has given all his coaches the opportunity to have success. Most importantly, Bob is a caring person who always put the student-athletes’ well-being before all else. We will all miss his leadership.”
Driscoll won numerous national awards for his efforts at Providence, most recently earning the Division I-AAA Athletics Directors Association Builders’ Award in 2020. He has served on many Big East and NCAA committees, most notably the NCAA’s Division One Management Council.