BIDDEFORD — New University of New England Director of Athletics Jack McDonald has only been on the job for a couple months, but he already has shown that he will be both seen and heard by the university and the community ”“ and he wants his department to follow suit.

McDonald was introduced to the public and the media Monday at the Harold Alfond Forum on campus, but instead of just being the center of attention, McDonald was also front and center to introduce his and the department’s two newest hires. The press conference was also a chance for UNE to unveil men’s hockey coach Kevin Swallow and women’s swimming coach Rick Hayes.

Both hires show the direction that McDonald is pushing the UNE athletics program ”“ up.

McDonald retired from his post as AD at Quinnipiac University in October, after a 20-year run that saw the Bobcats transition from Division II to Division I, build the 160,000 square foot TD Bank Sports Center and win 33 conference championships.

But retirement didn’t last long for McDonald, who said he was told by his peers that he should stay busy and keep his eyes open for opportunities to get back into collegiate athletics.

That opportunity came when McDonald came in contact with UNE president Danielle Ripich regarding UNE starting up a women’s rugby program. McDonald, a New England native, visited the campus and was hooked.

“I said ”˜wow, this is a really neat place,’” said McDonald. “It’s a great change in a great location.”

McDonald has big plans for the athletics department, but he said he first needs to “get to know everybody and their particular mission as a coach or a student-athlete” as well as “building consensus” with Ripich and John Tumiel, UNE’s senior advisor to the president.

Judging by the tenor of Monday’s press conference, there is a consensus in the UNE athletic department about Swallow’s and Hayes’ respective credentials.

Swallow was a successful player at both Dartmouth College and the University of Maine and an even more successful head coach the past three years at Nichols College. The Bison were 37-36-6 in three years prior to Swallow’s arrival, but improved to 55-20-7 ”“ including a 21-4-3 mark last season ”“ during his tenure at Nichols.

“As you’re looking at his resume, and then you meet the person, and not to mention his affiliation with the University of Maine, you sort of said, ”˜wow, he’s the right guy,’” McDonald said of Swallow.

McDonald said Swallow was as drawn to UNE as the school was to him, with a broad recruiting base and new, desirable facilities at the Harold Alfond Forum.

Swallow said that he was brought in to take the program to the next level and that he sees no reason why UNE can’t be a power program.

Swallow takes over a program that never made it past the ECAC East quarterfinals in its six years of existence, but he hopes to change the culture, much like he did at Nichols.

Swallow said he will look to bring in top local talent, but also wants to improve the recruiting to reach nationwide.

Hayes, who is no stranger to UNE or to swimming in Maine, also said he wants to stretch his recruiting base.

“I love Maine kids, but I don’t limit myself to that at all,” said Hayes, who is looking to get the best talent regardless of where it comes from.

Hayes’ arrival in Biddeford is actually more of a return. He was an assistant under program matriarch Kate Roy from 2005-07, when the women’s swimming team was in its infancy.

He coached at Deering High School prior to his first stint at UNE, then moved on to become head coach at Saint Joseph’s College the last seven years.

Hayes said there shouldn’t be much change from Roy’s tenure to what he will bring to the program.

“I’ll put my own spin on it, but it will be pretty seamless I think,” said Hayes.

Hayes said he is just as excited to continue the program’s academic success as he is the success in the pool. The Nor’easters have achieved Scholar All-America squad status in every semester of the program’s existence, and Hayes said he is “proud” to keep that take over a program with that kind of reputation.

McDonald said he’s not surprised to see UNE’s athletic programs thrive both in competition and in the classroom, as the two often go hand-in-hand.

“They’re successful in academics because they’re busy. Because they have a coach, an athletic director, a sports information director, an athletic trainer who cares about their well-being,” said McDonald. “So that’s why student-athletes do so well in the classroom.”

The UNE athletics department will be busy over the next few years, as the school has plans to establish both women’s rugby and football programs in the coming years, and McDonald intimated to potential tennis programs down the road if tennis courts are built on campus.

McDonald sees both football and women’s rugby as sports that can capture fan attention on Saturday afternoons in the fall ”“ one of the most important times for school spirit to be cultivated, he said.

As the unofficial commissioner of national women’s rugby, as McDonald said he has been designated, he is excited to be adding the sport either this fall or next. But football will most likely come in the fall of 2017.

“We’re starting from scratch,” McDonald said of football. “I think what we need to do is to sort of develop at least a plan so we can show coaches what the long-term plans are for football. So that’s what we’re going to work on in the next few weeks.”

McDonald was brought in to push the UNE athletics department past its current boundaries, and by holding press conferences like the one he was a part of and helped lead Monday, the UNE community will be along for the ride to wherever the Nor’easters as a collective go in the future.

— Sports Staff Writer Wil Kramlich can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 323 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @WilTalkSports.

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