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New Athletics Director Charts Ambitious Course for Columbia

Dianne Murphy

Dianne Murphy's favorite song is New York, New York. Even during her time as director of athletics at the University of Denver, where she transformed the department into a NCAA Division I powerhouse, she had an affinity for Frank Sinatra's classic.

"I have always loved that song," says Murphy, stretched out in her spacious new office in Dodge Fitness Center. "It says a lot about what we're trying to do around here." Being able to make it in this town certainly opens a lot of doors, and that's just what Murphy plans to do with Columbia's athletic program.

As her first month on the job draws to a close, Murphy is intent on ensuring that Columbia takes full advantage of its location. During what she calls her "looking, listening and learning" period, Murphy sees two major advantages going forward: the recruitment potential of being able to offer an excellent education in the greatest city on Earth and a major alumni network that is waiting to become more active in supporting successful athletics -- two big things to cheer about, as far as Murphy is concerned.

"Being in New York is an absolute asset for lots of reasons," says Murphy. "How great that can be for recruiting -- to be able to bring a young man or woman into New York City. In addition to a world-class education, they've got all these cultural activities available to them, all these professional sports and an alumni network that can help them -- whether it's getting into graduate school, getting a job on Wall Street, medical school, whatever it may be -- why would you go anywhere else? We have to do a better job marketing what a gem this place is."

The men's basketball team will play North Carolina State in the Dreyfus Holiday Festival tournament on Dec. 28 in Madison Square Garden.

Murphy has been delighted with the amount of alumni and community support she's received since she began the post. "Alumni just love this place," she says. Actively seeking more alumni funding can help build the program, while the more successful teams become, the more attractive attending games and matches will be. "I'm telling you, people are going to come out of the woodwork," Murphy says.

Overall, "it's about setting, meeting and maintaining high expectations," says Murphy. "There are three words you'll hear me talking about here: integrity, quality and excellence. That's what I'm about. You're never going to be perfect, but you sure better strive for it. I don't think we've set the bar high enough at Columbia. It's not OK to be average academically, so why should it be [OK to be average] athletically?

"I am more encouraged today than I was a month ago," says Murphy. "I really believe we have got the kind of university that will attract great coaches and great student athletes. If we didn't have that quality of institution, I'm not so sure we could do it."

In an example of bringing Columbia athletics to a larger stage, Head Coach Joseph Jones will lead the men's basketball team onto the floor of Madison Square Garden to take on the ACC's North Carolina State in the Dreyfus Holiday Festival tournament on Dec. 28. The winner of that match-up will face either St. John's University or Canisius College on Dec. 30. For tickets, call the CU Athletics Ticket Office at (212) 854-0043.

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Published: Dec 13, 2004
Last modified: Jan 10, 2005

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