Tonawanda News — LEWISTON — Upon being introduced as the new Athletic Director at Niagara University, Simon Gray posed for a photo with school officials, holding up a purple Niagara basketball jersey bearing his name.
"I am so excited right now, I'd like to put that jersey on and play a game," said the new hire before beginning his remarks.
Gray was formally introduced Friday morning in a news conference on the Niagara campus. He joins Niagara after working in the athletics department at Eastern Kentucky University since 2005. There, he worked in numerous roles including two stints as the acting athletic director, the position he was holding until he accepted the opportunity to come to Monteagle Ridge.
"This was a national search," said Niagara University president Rev. James Maher. "(The search committee) worked very hard to find the perfect fit for the university community and this search was a great success."
Gray takes the position on a permanent basis following last September's departure of Tom Crowley, who held the job for just under a year. Crowley then parted under what school officials would explain only as philosophical differences.
Gray assured a room full of his new peers, including coaches, athletes, staff and alumni, that his philosophy will match well with that of the school.
"As an athletics department it is our responsibility to enhance this institution by offering a front porch for many constituents," Gray said. "We are a source of pride for students, alumni, faculty, staff, donors and community members. Our goals will align with the university's strategic plan. Our primary purpose will be centered on student-athlete excellence, civic responsibility and competitive success. Every day we will strive to get better in these three areas while embracing diversity."
Niagara reported last week that six of their programs were recognized in the 2014 NCAA Division I Academic Performance Program (APP) for ranking in the top 10 percent in their respective sports. Gray spoke of continuing Niagara's "positive direction of academics," keeping a sharp focus on graduation and retention rates as well as other NCAA progress measurements.