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Publish date: Nov 23, 2010

Note: This article appears in the Fall 2010 issue of NCAA Champion magazine.

From small frames come big pictures

By Gary Brown

Bridget Belgiovine bio

Position: Athletics director at Wellesley.

Previous positions: Director of Division III (NCAA national office); AD at Wisconsin-La Crosse; assistant AD and assistant professor at Springfield.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from The College of New Jersey (then Trenton State); master’s degree from Springfield.

NCAA service: Division III membership vice president (1996-97); Division III Championships Committee (1997-98).

Honors and awards: Former president of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators; NACWAA Administrator of the Year in 2003; Springfield Distinguished Alumna Award in 2007.

What you didn’t know: Belgiovine played a role in the development of college basketball’s three-point shot, compiling statistics on the experimental rule in the mid-1980s when she was working on her master’s degree under Springfield AD Ed Steitz (then secretary-rules editor for college basketball).

Bridget Belgiovine thinks globally but acts locally.

The one-time Division III vice president and director of Division III, Belgiovine – now quite “at home” as AD at Wellesley College – has never lost sight of how to make the big picture sparkle in small frames.

In many ways, Belgiovine has returned to her roots after some ambitious adventures. The College of New Jersey graduate and Springfield College postgrad made a national splash as the athletics director at Wisconsin-La Crosse – and as Division III vice president in 1996-97 when that lofty level was a membership position. But after her Division III leadership stint at the national office, she settled into a more genuine passion.

“As an AD, your influence is very visible,” Belgiovine said. “The way that you lead the program and create the vision is carried out in the lives of the students. That’s what drew me back to this level. You can see the four-year growth of the student. When you are recognizing them or honoring them in that fourth year and you’ve talked with their families over that time and they say things that indicate the effect you’ve had – to me there’s nothing better.”

On a national scale, Belgiovine equates that rush to being director of Division III and handing out awards at national championships.

“That is a phenomenal feeling, too,” she said of her time in Indianapolis, “but I wasn’t connected to any of those students. As an AD, you can see how they have appreciated their four-year experience – it happens right in front of you. So, yes, I do have the ability to see the big picture, but I crave that local interaction.”

Belgiovine has just what she wants at 2,300-student Wellesley in the Massachusetts town with the same name. And even though she’s not far from her roots, it took a lot for her to get there.

At Wisconsin-La Crosse, Belgiovine was admittedly green. At age 34 and as a woman at a school known for its football and track programs, Belgiovine felt like she had to have all the answers herself.

“I now have a larger network of colleagues that I have no qualms about seeking advice from,” she said this summer from her porch at her Wellesley home. “And I also am very comfortable now saying to anyone in our department, ‘I don’t know the answer to that, but we’ll figure it out together.’ ”

Having gone through the complexities of NCAA and Division III governance, Belgiovine holds dear the opinions of others.

Bridget Belgiovine (center) has positioned herself as an advocate for student Athletes at Wellesley.

She counts among her influences groundbreakers like Charlotte West and Judy Sweet. In describing herself, she said, “I would like to think that people can look at me and say, you know, regardless of her perspective or opinion, she’ll always listen and want to hear the other side.

“For me, it’s about valuing people. I couldn’t care less where you come from. I am going to value you for what you bring to the situation and how we can help students who are going through a whole gamut of issues. I can influence that on a daily basis from where I am.”

Her focus now is on working with the coaches and support staff who have the greatest impact on student-athletes. But she also loves the strategic planning and the visionary thinking that comes with a more global perspective – which is why Belgiovine still has a broader influence even from a smaller campus.

“What do I really love?” she asked. “The bigger picture stuff, yes, but I am also drawn to the day-to-day influence that working in athletics affords.”