There’s a new sheriff in town — or rather, a new Shark overseeing Intercollegiate Athletics at Long Island University.

Last week, LIU named Elliott Charles as the university’s new Athletic Director. Charles, formerly Deputy Athletic Director, succeeds Ryan Kelly, who departed for a role as Senior Associate Athletic Director/Football Operations at Syracuse University.

For Charles, a native of Roosevelt here on the Island, it’s a homecoming that places him at the helm of the Sharks.

“It was a full-circle, amazing feeling, and it was super intentional,” said Charles, who will oversee the school’s 37 Division 1 sports programs. LIU boasts 34 Division 1 championship programs, tying them with Harvard for the most in the nation.

“My wife and I decided that our next step had to be one where we could make a home. LIU was the perfect fit for us.”

Charles, a graduate of South Florida, previously served as Director of Athletics at Chicago State and held senior athletic positions at Clemson, Florida A+M, Alabama, Northern Illinois, South Florida, and the Mid-American Conference.

Now, he’s back home.

It’s been six years since Long Island University in Brooklyn merged sports operations with CW Post on Long Island, combining the histories of the Blackbirds and the Pioneers. Now, Charles is in charge of the Sharks, facing a series of challenges, including spreading awareness of the Sharks and growing their brand.

“One of the main challenges is figuring out how to tell our story,” said Charles. “Telling the story is part of keeping that brand identity. Bringing every single sports program to its best potential and really focusing on who we are as LIU and the Sharks is the number one challenge.”

For any Athletic Director, navigating the current landscape of college sports presents new challenges, from the transfer portal allowing player mobility to Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) deals for student-athletes.

Charles must now navigate these waters and ensure they become advantageous for the Sharks.

“As we look at what it’s taking to recruit students in and be successful, coaches and us as administrators and everyone have to rethink the whole thing right now,” said Charles. “I don’t know that it’s as much of a sales approach as it truly is about meeting people where they are and really becoming a better investigator of what people are look for out of higher education and out of intercollegiate athletics.”

LIU Athletics has seen several successes. On the women’s side, the lacrosse team secured the NEC Championship under head coach Meghan McNamara-Cafiero this past season, while the women’s ice hockey team, led by head coach Kelly Nash, claimed two conference championships.

In men’s sports, the Sharks baseball team, under Manager Dan Pirillo, won the NEC championship last season, and the football program continues to progress under head coach Ron Cooper, entering his third season with ambitions for the NEC title.

“We’re progressing,” said Charles who has previously worked with Cooper at South Florida. “Coach Cooper is fully invested in the success of the program. We’ve seen steady improvement during his tenure.”

Football games take place at Bethpage Federal Credit Union Stadium on the Long Island campus, yet there’s a notable absence: lights, necessary for night games — a significant factor in player recruitment. Securing approval from local authorities and homeowners is essential for this change.

“Getting all the constituents involved and really having a discussion about how everybody is impacted is super important,” said Charles. “As the new guy, my job is to be the best listener in the world. It’s on my radar and the best thing I can do is to help move the conversations along.”

Concurrently, talks are underway about moving some basketball games from the Brooklyn campus to the Pratt Recreation Center gym on Long Island. The men’s team, led by head coach and former New York Knicks guard Rod Strickland, could see action there.

“More than a thought,” said Charles. “We want to think about how to meet our fans and community where they are. We’re thinking strongly and considering strongly what it would be like to play out here on Long Island for a couple of games this season.”

As LIU prepares for the 2024-25 academic year and the fall sports season, Charles is immersed in his responsibilities, finalizing sponsorship deals, marketing strategies, and student-athlete enrollments throughout the summer.

“The most important thing has been really being intentional about what looking like a calming force is and really coaching the coaches and being there to serve them and ask them what they need,” said Charles. “Just getting organized and then taking a step back to really look at our big facilities and capital plan opportunities.”

Top: Elliott Charles, a Long Island native, named Athletic Director of Long Island University. (Courtesy photo)

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