Sacred Heart Names First Female Athletic Director

Sacred Heart University recently promoted Judy Ann Riccio to Athletic Director (AD). She is now one among 57 female Athletic Directors to lead a Division 1 athletic program and holds the title of Sacred Heart’s first female athletic director. 

“This is a transformational day for SHU athletics,”said Jim Barquinero, senior Vice President of Enrollment, Student Affairs & Athletics, according to a press release from the university. “Judy Ann’s leadership skills, combined with her passion for the student- athlete experience, will allow her to build on the success of our 33 D-I programs. I am excited to see her impact as she takes on leadership of our program and builds on the success we have already experienced. Judy Ann truly is a Pioneer.” 

Riccio, who has worked the last 12 years as the Executive Director of Divisional Budgets, was named the interim AD in June 2021. It was only three months before she was promoted to head AD. Before this, Riccio served on SHU’s Title IX Committee, the Pioneer Journey of Transformational Education Committee, and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group. 

“It is such an honor and a privilege to be the first woman Athletic Director at SHU,” said Riccio. “I aim to be a role model for younger female staff, and students, who aspire to be at the highest level of athletic administration.” 

Many students are impressed with the news. 

“I think it’s great that we have a female athletic director,” said senior Abigail Wunderlich. “Especially since it’s something the school has never done before.” 

Riccio understands that athletics often plays a big role in how outsiders view a university, calling athletics the “front porch” of Sacred Heart. She says it is her goal to maximize revenue and resources in order to provide the best student athlete experience possible. 

“I’m very excited for the future of Sacred Heart athletics with Judy Ann at the helm on a permanent basis,” said Noreen Morris, commissioner of the Northeast Conference (NEC) in the university’s press release. “She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, both internal and external to athletics, that will position her and the department for continued success.” 

Riccio is already planning several projects on campus, with the goal of providing unique fan experiences as well as the overall improvement of Sacred Heart’s athletic facilities. 

“My work on the complete re-envisioning and subsequent renovation of the Pitt Center and adjacent fields will begin shortly,” said Riccio. 

A renovation of the Pitt Center not only means a renovation to the home courts of SHU basketball, volleyball and fencing, but would also include a renovation to Campus Field, the home field of SHU football, lacrosse and track. 

One project already in the works is the Martire Family Arena, a brand-new building at West Campus that will be an on-campus skating facility for SHU’s hockey and figure skating programs. It is scheduled to open in January of 2023. 

“I am looking forward to the opening of the Martire Family Arena and I will be working on a premier fan experience for the Arena and all of our venues,” said Riccio. 

Riccio has spent most of her professional career working on projects for the betterment of the student athletes on campus, and she is eager to continue that work. 

“I am most looking forward to getting to know our student athletes better, to be able to spend more time with them and hear directly from them,” said Riccio. “I am looking forward to celebrating their successes on and off the field.” 

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