NEW BRITAIN - When Steve Villanti spoke in front of Central Connecticut State athletes, faculty and alumni, among others, he was in a familiar place.
Villanti has been the associate athletic director for external services at the university since 2009 and before that served as an assistant football coach at the school from 1985 to 2001.
“There’s always a good underlying for somebody who’s an internal candidate, because they know the beat of the program,” Associate Athletic Director Amy Strickland said. “For Steve, this is a great opportunity for him, but we look at everybody. You want to look at everybody and everything and we’re going to do our best to represent CCSU and make recommendations to Dr. [Zulma] Torro and do what’s best for us and our community.”
Before Villanti got into his pitch on why he should be the next athletic director at the university, Villanti wanted to thank those in attendance.
“Whether I get the job or not, I just wanted to say I’m very appreciative for being part of the Blue Devils for all these years,” Villanti said. “I wanted to just say some of the people that I’ve met here certainly shaped the person I am today.”
As Villanti continued on, he touched on the history and tradition of CCSU athletics and how he’ll prioritize that should he get the job.
“Tradition is really important here and tradition is going to be really important to me,” Villanti said. “It’s going to be important that we bring back players and coaches that have played and coached here before to talk to our student athletes. Being a Blue Devil is really special, and being a Blue Devil is all about family and unselfishness.”
Villanti mentioned that in order to deal with budget constraints, it’s going to take a collective effort and he can’t do it alone. He didn’t touch as much on the budget issues as the prior two candidates did in the public forum.
Some of the other subjects Villanti responded to included diversity and gender equity of the school and recruiting issues at the school.
As far as diversity and gender equity, Villanti had evidence to show the university was ahead of the average school.
“Diversity and culture is really important to me and we’ve made some really good strides here,” Villanti said. “Just looking at some research and statistics, only 22.8 percent of Division I men’s basketball programs have an African-American coach. And we’re fortunate enough to have Donyell [Marshall]. As far as equity, only 38 percent of Division I women’s basketball programs have female coaches. We have Beryl Piper. UCF does a study on the institute of diversity and equity and I just happened to be doing some comparisons about where we are student-athlete-wise. The African-American and Latino student athletes in football are somewhere around 52 to 53 percent. We have 65 percent of our students are students of color.”
Villanti also mentioned that he adopted two Filipino kids years ago and now has two grandchildren that are half Filipino and half Puerto Rican, so diversity is important to him and has been.
As far as recruiting and bringing the right athletes to CCSU, Villanti said the school has to improve in that facet.
“We haven’t really been able to recruit because we haven’t been funding it very well,” Villanti said. “Most of everybody’s budgets have zero money in recruiting. They’ve been raising all the money they need in order to recruit. Unfortunately, we have football coaches that are sleeping on their parents’ couches and friends’ floors. We need to do better with recruiting and need to do a better job doing background checks and making sure we have people of character that want to come and be part of something great.”