Loyola names Steve Watson athletic director

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Loyola’s nearly five-month search for a new athletic director has ended with the hiring of Steve Watson, the longtime athletic director at St. Bonaventure.

Watson, 46, will replace Grace Calhoun, who spent two years at Loyola before leaving in July for a similar position at Penn.

“I knew very quickly this could be the perfect fit for me,’’ Watson said in a statement Wednesday. “It is a great school, in a great city, with great people. Much like the Atlantic 10, the Missouri Valley is an outstanding conference with a reputation for high-level basketball.’’

Watson spent seven years as athletic director at St. Bonaventure, and during his tenure the men’s basketball program revived under his first hire, coach Mark Schmidt. The Bonnies won their first Atlantic 10 Conference title in 2012 and returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 years

The women’s program also reached post-season play five times during his seven years, including a program-best record of 31-4 in 2011-12 and trip to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.

The Ramblers’ men’s program, still the only one in Illinois to have won the NCAA national title (1963), hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1985 and has had only five winning seasons since then.

But the Ramblers recorded another national achievement in May when the men’s volleyball team won the NCAA national championship.

“Steve Watson brings tremendous experience and enthusiasm to Loyola,’’ university president the Rev. Michael J. Garanzini said. “He impressed us with his ability to build and sustain a successful intercollegiate athletic program, especially in basketball. We look to him to lead our university efforts to engage and energize the campus and the community in our Ramblers’ success.’’

Watson was an assistant athletic director at Eastern Michigan and director of marketing and promotion at Dayton before his position at St. Bonaventure.

He played collegiate basketball at Rutgers and Bowling Green, where he graduated in 1990. He went on to play professionally for seven years overseas in France, Portugal and Taiwan.

Watson is a native of Franklinville, NY. He and his wife, Ann, have three children: Abby (19), Allison (16) and Jackson (13).

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