Ed McLaughlin was named the sixth athletic director in VCU history on July 24, 2012. At his introductory press conference, he wasted little time laying out his vision for the department.
“There are a lot of people in this business, a lot of athletic directors that take jobs, but not a lot of them say when they wake up, ‘We can win a national championship here.’ It’s inspiring, and I think VCU is a place where we can win a national championship.”
Two years into his tenure, VCU Athletics has already shown signs that his vision could be a reality sooner rather than later.
During McLaughlin’s first two years, VCU has led the Atlantic 10 with an overall winning percentage of .645, the highest two-year span in school history. This past year, the Rams set a school record with nine programs reaching NCAA posteason events (men’s cross country, men’s soccer, men’s basketball, women’s indoor track & field, men’s tennis, women’s tennis, golf and men’s and women’s outdoor track & field).
For the second straight year, three programs earned top-25 rankings (men’s soccer, men’s basketball and baseball).
In the classroom, the 270-plus student-athletes posted the highest GPA in school history with a 3.0 for the 2012-13 academic year. In the latest APR report, VCU reached a record high with an average of 970 for the 16 intercollegiate athletic programs. Last year, the Rams had four programs achieve a perfect 1000 (men’s basketball, men’s soccer, field hockey and women’s tennis).
Externally, the department surpassed $8 million in overall revenue for the second straight year, a feat that had never been accomplished prior to last year. The Ram Athletic Fund posted a second straight year of over $2.8 million, another feat that had never been accomplished prior to last year.
In addition, VCU Athletics secured the largest corporate partnership in history ($4 million with HDL, Inc.) and the largest gift in history ($3 million from Meadwestvaco Corporation).
All that was just year one of McLaughlin’s tenure.
“[Ed] has the vision, the energy and the commitment that we need to continue this upward trajectory that we have enjoyed in recent years at Virginia Commonwealth University,” said VCU President Dr. Michael Rao, noting that McLaughlin stood out among more than 50 applicants. “He is our ultimate leader for our athletics program, and I have supreme confidence in his ability to take us to the very next level.”
McLaughlin, who spent six successful years as athletic director at Niagara prior to joining VCU, is a self-proclaimed college athletics lifer. In 2014-15, he says he’ll proudly celebrate his 24th consecutive year on a college campus.
With McLaughlin, 41, comes his track record of accomplishment. However, despite numerous conference championships, NCAA bids, fundraising milestones and academic awards at his previous career stops at Niagara, American University and Merrimack College, McLaughlin hasn’t forgotten the core values that paved the road to success.
“I believe in integrity. I believe in doing things the right way. I believe in hard work. I believe in winning championships,” he said. “More importantly, I believe in the student-athlete experience. I love mentoring student-athletes. I love being around student-athletes and helping them go from their teen years to adults. It’s incredibly rewarding.”
He was incredibly successful in that regard at Niagara from 2006-12. As athletic director, McLaughlin oversaw a department that included 18 Division I programs, more than 300 student-athletes and 50 staffers and helped the Purple Eagles triumph on the field, in the classroom and in the community.
Niagara won more conference championships during McLaughlin’s six-year tenure than in the previous 75 years of collegiate athletics at the university. In his first year, McLaughlin headed a department that captured league titles in women’s soccer and men’s basketball, as well as a College Hockey America regular season crown in men’s hockey. The men’s basketball team later won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in 37 years. In 2009, the Purple Eagles’ women’s volleyball team earned its first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship and NCAA berth. They followed with a second straight MAAC title in 2010.
Off the field, Niagara student-athletes collectively recorded the highest grade point average (GPA) in school history (3.30) during the 2007-08 academic year, and in 2010-11, 70 percent of the school’s student-athletes attained a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
Meanwhile, under McLaughlin’s direction, Niagara Athletics generated more than $500,000 in additional revenue and set attendance records in men’s hockey and men’s basketball.
A highly-regarded member of the college athletics community, McLaughlin has also used his leadership skills to serve student-athletes on a national scale. He will serve as the chairman of the Atlantic 10 Finance Committee from 2014-16. Prior to VCU, he was elected to the Division I-AAA Athletic Director Association Executive Committee for the 2011-12 term. He has also served as the chair of the College Hockey America (CHA) Directors Committee and as chairman of the NCAA Hockey Rules Committee. From 2008-10, he was the commissioner of the College Hockey America Conference. McLaughlin has also worked as chair of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s Committee on Athletic Administration.
From 2004-06, McLaughlin served as associate athletic director for external affairs at American University. In September of 2004, he gained additional duties as the executive director of the Eagles Club. He began his tenure at American in May of 2000 as assistant athletic director for facilities and operations and was promoted to associate athletic director for facilities and operations in October of 2002.
At American, McLaughlin spearheaded the department’s external unit for athletics, including development, alumni relations, marketing, sports information and tickets. His primary focus was on development and alumni relations, running the fundraising arm of the athletics department and the Eagles Club, as well as the athletic department’s capital campaign. Alumni participation and giving increased in each year under McLaughlin, and each athletic program created an affinity group to promote fund-raising and participation.
In his previous position at American, McLaughlin oversaw all facilities and operations, game entertainment and presentation, and game operations. In 2002, American’s Reeves Field was named the STMA College Soccer Field of the Year. McLaughlin also led the athletic department through $4.5 million in facility improvements to Bender Arena, Reeves Aquatic Center and Jacobs Recreation Complex.
A 1995 graduate of Boston College with a bachelor of arts in political science and communications, McLaughlin served as the sports editor of the school’s independent weekly student newspaper, The Heights. McLaughlin earned his master’s degree in health promotion management from American in May of 2005. Prior to his stint at Merrimack, McLaughlin spent two years as the director of media relations for the Hockey East Conference, where he was in charge of the conference publications, organizing the league’s championship tournament and scheduling and developing a marketing plan for the conference championship.The Natick, Mass., native joined American after three years at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass. While there, McLaughlin’s responsibilities included scheduling intercollegiate athletic contests and practices, overseeing travel arrangements for the school’s intercollegiate teams and supervising and managing the budgets of nine of the Warriors’ varsity athletic teams.
McLaughlin and his wife, Shelley, have three children, daughter Hannah (13), and sons Liam (10) and Rian (7).