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.”
VCU Athletics released its plan to reach a national championship and sustainable elite success nationally in the summer of 2013 with “VCU Rising: The Black and Gold Standard.” The plan centers on the student-athlete experience and the eight core values of the department: drive to excel, commitment to community, integrity, loyalty and positivity, equity and diversity, collaboration, innovation and student-athlete focus.
McLaughlin talks about the importance of the student-athlete experience every day: “Our culture drives our success and our core values provide the foundation of our culture. I want the experience of our student-athletes to be the best in the country so they win championships, grow academically and develop into incredible human beings who excel as leaders long after they graduate from VCU.”
Five years into his tenure, VCU Athletics has developed its student-athletes and achieved many of the goals laid out in the strategic plan to move closer and closer to that vision of national championships becoming a reality.
During McLaughlin’s first five years, VCU has experienced competitive success unparalled in the history of the institution. The Rams have won 16 Atlantic 10 Conference team championships, 55 A-10 individual championships and have sent 31 teams and individuals into NCAA Tournament compeition. The baseball program advanced to the 2015 NCAA Super Regionals after winning the Dallas Regional and the men’s basketball program advanced to its seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament in 2017.
An essential part of the student-athlete experience, academics and academic support have been made a point of emphasis during McLaughlin’s tenure with increases to staffing and tutoring for the student-athletes. In the classroom, the 270-plus student-athletes have performed at record levels since McLaughlin’s arrival in 2012. The department GPA exceeded 3.0 three times, with more than 58 percent of VCU’s student-athletes achieving a 3.0 GPA or higher during that time. Prior to McLaughlin’s arrival, the Rams never experienced a semester with a 3.0 GPA or higher.
Externally, the department has increased its revenue gradually each year, surpassing $11 million in overall revenue in 2015 and doubling since McLaughlin’s arrival. The Ram Athletic Fund also has doubled since McLaughlin’s arrival to more than $3.5 million to go along with large increases in ticket sale revenue throughout the 83-game sellout streak. In 2015, VCU signed a 10-year agreement with Learfield Sports to outsource multimedia rights for the first time in the department’s history, guaranteeing the department $22 million over the term of the contract. Strong external revenue results coupled with sound financial management turned department budget deficits into balanced budgets during each year of McLaughlin’s tenure at VCU.
McLaughlin has focused on facility improvements at VCU to enhance the student-athlete experience, highlighted by the $25 million VCU Basketball Development Center that opened in 2015. The three-year project to fund, finance and build the 62,700 square foot facility gives VCU’s basketball programs one of the top practice facilities in the country. Under McLaughlin’s tenure, VCU has added suites, a center-hung videoboard and new sound system at the Stuart C. Siegel Center, added the Academic Center at W. Marshall Street, renovation locker rooms for the Olympic Sport programs and replaced the turf at Cary Street Field.
“[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 2017-18, he says he’ll proudly celebrate his 27th consecutive year on a college campus.
With McLaughlin, 43, 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.
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.
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.
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.
McLaughlin and his wife, Shelley, have three children, daughter Hannah (15), and sons Liam (12) and Rian (9).