Following the resignation and departure of former Athletic Director Scott Sidwell, Joan McDermott has stepped into the position.
McDermott, who officially took over on March 3, is an alumna of USF and has served as Deputy Assistant Director for the Dons since 2016.
“It’s a great job to be in and I absolutely love it,” McDermott said in a sit-down interview with the Foghorn. “I’m pretty experienced being an athletic director.”
That would be an understatement. Prior to her return to the Hilltop, McDermott spent nearly 20 years as an Athletic Director first for Metropolitan State University in Denver and then at California State University, East Bay in Hayward, California. Both Division II programs saw major academic and athletic improvements during her tenure.
Speaking in her office in War Memorial Gymnasium, McDermott said, “I’ve been coming to this gym since I was probably 8 or 9 years old. I grew up around the basketball program here. I grew up in San Francisco and I did go to school here.”
That lifelong connection to USF still resonates with her. “It’s been a dream for me to be here and be the Athletic Director.”
USF feels like home, she says. “I know so much about it. I know the feel and the tradition. I’ve been able to already connect with a lot of alumni, so I feel like I can take that experience in knowing what I know about the tradition and everything that’s been here before, and help us continue to improve.”
McDermott pointed out that she hopes to also strengthen the Dons’ ties to the community and to USF students of the past and present. “At the end of the day, it’s about our student athletes, and really, the students on this campus. We want our students to come to our events and be a part of it.”
Scott Sidwell, McDermott’s predecessor, was lauded prior to his departure for his achievements in fundraising for the athletic department and leading facilities projects. When asked what she hopes to be lauded for when the time comes, McDermott had a slightly different goal.
“It seems like athletic directors are remembered for either great hires or building buildings. I want to do both,” McDermott said. “I’m greedy; I have high expectations of myself.”
McDermott reiterated her commitment to completing the department’s ongoing projects — namely the Sobrato Center practice facility, which is planned to be built above the parking lot between War Memorial Gym and the Hayes-Healy residence hall. She said that the completion of the project would be a major step for the department and the University, allowing War Memorial Gym to become more of an events space available to the USF community.
Not only would the completion offer added flexibility to campus venues, but better quality facilities would also help the athletic department recruit a higher level of talent to play for the Dons and increases the appeal for visiting teams.
McDermott becomes the eighth athletic director in program history. The Dons have seen their highs and lows, from national championships to five NCAA infractions cases (no other West Coast Conference school has had more than two). But she will not get starstruck by the history.
“I want to take this program to another level,” McDermott said.