By Cam Smith ’21
Sports Assistant Editor
As Vice President and Director of Athletics at Providence College, Bob Driscoll has overseen some of the brightest moments in Providence College history in his now 19-year tenure. So, when he says that things have never been better in Friartown, it is a good idea to believe him.
The Cowl got a chance to sit down with the affable athletic director following Homecoming Weekend to get his thoughts on the state of Friar athletics. The result: a fascinating conversation which delved into not only the present condition of the department, but its promising future as well.
It is hard to imagine how things can get much better for Driscoll and the Friars. Since 2013, PC has achieved an absurd amount of success under the AD’s watch, highlighted by national championships from both the women’s cross country team and the men’s ice hockey team.
Coupled with a string of seven consecutive postseason appearances by Ed Cooley and the men’s basketball team, in addition to the stunning facility upgrades on campus, it is safe to say that life is good as a Friar. Driscoll would have to agree.
“I am really proud of the entire campus,” said Driscoll. “When we bring people on it, they’re just blown away… It did not look like this 15, 18 years ago, but now when I bring my friends who worked at the University of California and a lot of the Big East schools they go, ‘Wow, I did not realize what a beautiful place this is.’”
One of the recent additions to contribute to the revitalization of the campus is the extraordinary Ruane Friar Development Center. The 30 million-dollar, 58,218 square-foot building opened in August of 2018, and has already played a significant role in the success of all 350 plus student-athletes.
Not only has it helped out those Friars currently in uniform, but it has already assisted in attracting some of the most skilled recruits in the country. “I have said this before, you get one chance to make a first impression,” commented Driscoll. “If you look at all of our athletic facilities, they have all either been renovated or built brand new because if you are going to attract the best student-athletes you have to have big time facilities.”
It is easy to see the appeal that the Friar Development Center has to recruits when it boasts equipment such as sleep pods, cryogenic machines, and meditative tanks. However, the top-notch equipment is far from the only draw for prospective athletes, as Driscoll and the department also utilize a talented team of sports psychologists and nutritionists. The recent partnership with the Mindfulness Center at Brown University, aimed at practicing healthy lifestyles, showcases the level of attention to personal wellness that the department displays.
“It is almost like an Olympic training village if you will… it really has had an impact on recruiting and the morale of our present student-athletes because they feel like they are being taken care of,” said Driscoll.
The on-the-field product certainly speaks to the athletic director’s point, as the Friars are off to a solid start in both the fall and winter sport seasons. “We are off to a good start,” said Driscoll. “Field hockey is in the mix with a chance to compete for a championship… I think [cross country] will be competitive, they will certainly get back to the NCAA’s. I’m not sure they will have a shot to win the whole thing, but we’ll have to see.”
Driscoll spoke to the start of hockey season as well, admitting that, “Hockey has gotten off to a good start too. The men beating Maine 7-0 with a really young team and then the women splitting with Quinnipiac with a really young team as well. So, I think things are going really well so far.”
Things may get even better in the future as the resources of the Friar Development Center take further effect, and as the plans for the second phase of the Friar Development Center come to fruition. Indeed, Driscoll and his fellow college leadership members have launched an ambitious effort to take the Alumni Hall area of the campus to a whole new, previously unimaginable, level.
While phase one of the Friar Development Center may seem more athlete-oriented, phase two will create a resource geared toward every student and visitor on campus: Friartown Way.
The forthcoming phase will erect a connecting concourse between the Slavin Center and Alumni Hall, and will feature an expansion of both the Career Development Center as well as ’64 Hall. The effect will be the creation of an indoor street, one that very likely will serve as the new heart of campus.
“… It is going to be almost like a shopping mall area,” said Driscoll, as he gazed out upon the site from his office window. “This [area] is going to be expanded with a big dome over the top. We are hoping to have the designs and approvals this year and then start construction.”
The new area will be just the latest addition to a campus that has seen a remarkable number of jaw-dropping projects completed over the past few years. For Driscoll, the possibilities for this particular project are endless: “You can imagine just looking down on this great big open spot with perhaps a Dunkin Donuts in there, study areas, tables where people can hang out with the sunshine shining through. That would complete this entire project, it is going to be special.”
Driscoll has been more than a little busy lately, in addition to the announcement of phase two of the Friar Development Center, the Athletic Director also just recently completed a new, five-year strategic plan for the athletic department. The plan centers around five key goals, which aim to sustain the success of the department while enriching the experience of the student-athlete.
“We are trying to play a bigger game here,” said Driscoll. “Our new mission is to build champion citizens, scholars, and athletes who positively impact the world around them. I want our student- athletes to learn through playing sports that they have the ability to go out and hopefully change the world.”
With a new mission statement, a flourishing fall season underway, and more facilities set to arrive on campus, the condition of PC athletics has never been better. And, with Bob Driscoll and his talented staff of coaches at the helm, the continued success of the department seems guaranteed for decades to come.