Seven months after announcing his retirement as athletic director at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, Jack McDonald is taking on a new challenge up the coast.

On Monday, the University of New England announced it hired McDonald as associate vice president and director of athletics. He’ll begin his new duties on June 1.

“No disrespect to anyone up there,” said Bill Mecca, Quinnipiac’s senior associate athletic director, “but you’re getting a guy who is certainly overqualified to be the athletic director at the University of New England. Jack’s as good as it gets.”

McDonald comes to UNE after 20 years as Quinnipiac’s AD. He helped Quinnipiac transition to NCAA Division I status in 1998, and led an athletic department that fielded 21 varsity sports, won 29 conference titles, reached the 2013 men’s hockey national championship game and hosted the 2014 women’s hockey Frozen Four. He also oversaw construction of the TD Bank Sports Center, a 160,000 square-foot building that includes separate venues for the basketball and hockey programs.

“He’s a program builder who saw a lot of opportunity to build at UNE,” said University President Danielle N. Ripich, who has ambitious plans to add football by 2017. “He’s a high-energy guy. I think he felt he had one more big job in him.”

Before coming to Quinnipiac – located in Hamden, Connecticut – McDonald served as athletic director at the University of Denver from 1990 to 1995 and assistant director for marketing at Boston College from 1987 to 1990.

McDonald visited the Biddeford campus last month and spoke with coaches and student-athletes. He said he was struck by the similarities between UNE – which boasts Maine’s only medical and dental schools – and Quinnipiac, and that the campus reminded him of a great golf course where the Atlantic Ocean serves as a majestic backdrop.

“It’s a special place with special leadership,” McDonald said. “After I announced my retirement, people kept telling me, ‘Make sure you stay busy and other opportunities will come your way.’ Sure enough, they did. I think that with 25 years of experience, I know I’ll be able to contribute so much more.”

In addition to expanding the UNE athletic department to include football and women’s rugby, McDonald said more sports could be in the offing if they meet “the needs and ambitions of the school.”

The oldest of 11 children, McDonald grew up in Braintree, Massachusetts, and graduated with an economics degree from Boston College in 1973. He ran track for the Eagles, founded the Greater Boston Track Club, set a New England indoor mile record (4:00.9) in 1976 and earned a master’s degree from Springfield College in 1984. He also coached cross country and track at Boston College and said “Maine was my best-kept secret” for recruiting runners with strong work ethics.

At 64, he still runs regularly and churned out 4 miles Monday morning.

In addition to his running routine, he also plans to bring to UNE a penchant for meeting each Wednesday with coaches from all sports.

“I’ve been doing that since I was the AD at Denver,” he said. “Nothing is more important than building community by bringing people together. The best part of the meetings is when the little sub-meetings happen before, during or afterward.”

Mecca said the balance of academics and athletics at the Division III level appealed to McDonald.

“It’s a high-paced world in Division I athletics and it will beat you down over time,” he said. “Jack was able to navigate the calm and the choppy waters without the passengers knowing the conditions of the sea.”

Ripich said the feedback she received from UNE administrators, coaches and senior athletes who met with McDonald was “very enthusiastic.”

She also got a glowing review from Quinnipiac’s president, John Lahey.

“He said in terms of keeping people motivated and focused, he’s never worked with anyone better than Jack,” Ripich said. “I think he’s going to really leverage the base that we’ve been building. It’s going to be an exciting period for the University of New England.”

Associate Director of Athletics Curt Smyth has been serving as interim athletic director since mid-January, following the resignation of Kimberly J. Allen.

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

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