Calling it "a new journey for us all," Chet Gladchuk joined the Naval Academy yesterday as the school's 28th athletic director.
He replaces the retiring Jack Lengyel, effective Oct. 1, and becomes the second straight Navy AD who didn't graduate from the academy.
Gladchuk said he will return to the University of Houston, where he has been athletic director for four-plus years, to finalize his departure and hopes to return to Annapolis before the end of this month.
Widely experienced in fund-raising and supervising athletic facilities construction, Gladchuk will oversee the $40 million renovation of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and vowed to go "full speed ahead" as the leader of the school's 30-sport athletic program.
He is the third Navy athletic director in the past 33 years, following J.O. "Bo" Coppedge and Lengyel, who announced his retirement in July after 13 years in the position.
Vice Adm. John Ryan, the academy superintendent, said Gladchuk "is a proven leader in the field of intercollegiate athletics and a man of unquestioned personal integrity."
"We were looking for someone to continue the tradition," Ryan said. "Someone who could hire the best coaches and develop the facilities and someone with the vision and drive to take our 30 Division I programs to the next level."
Ryan also said Navy is interested in joining a football league. Navy is a member of the Patriot League in other sports.
Gladchuk's recent background is in Conference USA - at Tulane and Houston - and Army is a football-playing member of that league.
"Conference affiliation is something on our front burner," he said. "We'll continue to investigate that aggressively.
"There are so many variables and uncertainties - what happens in 2005 and 2006 with new TV packages, what route the playoffs take. We'll make a careful analysis and be sure we do what's best for the academy."
Gladchuk, a 1973 graduate of Boston College, cited his Jesuit roots when vowing to contribute to the moral, mental and physical fitness of the academy's athletes and said his goal for the program was "not to accept complacency."
Houston won 19 Conference USA titles during his tenure. He said he is leaving Houston because "I really felt comfortable I had completed what I came to do."
At Houston, the emphasis was on bringing back well-known alumni such as Clyde Drexler, Akeem (now Hakeem) Olajuwon and Carl Lewis and the hiring of competent coaches such as football mentor Dana Dimel and basketball head Ray McCallum.
He supervised the first phase of the massive renovation of Robertson Stadium and led an effort that raised more than $2 million for a state-of-the-art softball facility. Luxury boxes were added for football and basketball and a $5 million track was dedicated.
Before that, he served seven years as the AD at Boston College, where he'd played football. BC emerged as one of the NCAA's top programs in the 1990s with 33 sports. The Eagles three times won the College Football Association's Academic Achievement Award for the highest graduation rates among Division I schools.
In three years, Boston College's $2 million deficit in the athletic program turned into a $1.5 million surplus.
At Tulane from 1987 through 1990, Gladchuk directed the basketball program back to Division I status and oversaw the construction of numerous facilities after a $25 million fund-raising campaign.
Gladchuk also said he plans to be sensitive to the neighborhoods near the athletic facilities and "being champions in our conference is constantly important. I'm pleased that most of our teams are already there."