It was seemingly overnight that Matt Giufre transformed from being the women’s volleyball coach to becoming the figure that oversees all athletic activities at SUNY New Paltz.
Giufre is the new interim athletic director (AD) at the university. He replaced the former AD of 19 years, Stuart Robinson, who stepped down effective Aug. 3 to serve as the assistant vice president and AD of New York University. With not enough time to conduct a full-fledged interview process for a new director over the summer, Robinson, along with other school officials, selected who they deemed the best candidate for the job.
“I am grateful for that man more than I can really articulate,” Giufre said. “He’s the one that took a chance on me 19 years ago and saw something in me. He’s had my back and been by my side for all of those years. I could never thank him enough.”
Giufre, under normal circumstances, is the coach of the women’s volleyball team. Since taking that role in 2001, he has led his team to more wins than any other coach in the program’s history and earned three SUNYAC titles. Last season, he guided his Hawks to a 15-14 record. To an extent, Giufre still maintains his coaching role in the form of leading small group training sessions, which began nearly a month ago.
While SUNY officials continue their search for a full-time replacement to take the AD spot for the 2021-22 athletic season, Giufre walks into his upstairs office in the Athletic and Wellness Center every day and tackles any issues he’s suddenly presented with that need resolving, making his day-to-day experience totally different from one day to the next.
“I’ve had to accept the fact that it’s not about my to-do list — because that gets thrown out the window — as much as it’s, ‘What are the one or two things I have to do before I close the door to go home today?’” Giufre said. “It’s just as busy as coaching during volleyball season.”
As the age old adage goes, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and that rings no different to Giufre.
“What I do with my team influences my team. What I do as the AD influences the entire department and many other people,” Giufre said.
With the unique circumstances surrounding life in 2020, he had many difficult decisions to ponder.
“We’re in such a crazy time right now,” Giufre said. “With COVID and social justice and an election coming up, I was thinking, ‘Can we play sports? Can we not play sports? What can we offer students?’ There was no blueprint for this, but I don’t know how much of an impact you can make when you’re in a one year situation.”
He admits that he’s more mindful of everything his job entails, from thinking carefully through non-crucial decisions to more deliberately wording his emails. He’s also aware that not everybody he works with is fully knowledgeable about the scope of operations of the athletic department. Unlike coaching, where coaches can understand each other’s lingo, not every school administrator knows exactly what an athletic director needs from them and vice versa.
Despite the changes in communication and job scope, he’s outspoken in his thanks for the school’s administrative support network that assists him in behind-the-scenes tasks he would’ve struggled to do by himself.
“There are just amazing people that work on this campus that I never would’ve otherwise crossed paths with,” Giufre said. “They’ve been very patient with me in learning how the athletic department operates along with their department. People here are great.”
While Giufre enjoys the challenges he’s presented with and constant communication, he has his gripes with the position, albeit minor.
“Some of the necessary administrative tasks aren’t really appealing to me,” Giufre said. “Tracking a budget is not appealing to me, but it’s extremely critical and necessary. I don’t mean to undervalue its importance, but it doesn’t get me excited.”
Making sure that athletes and staff get the best experience possible out of such an unusual time, as well as fostering a seamless transition to his successor, are Giufre’s top priorities to cement his brief yet memorable legacy as a New Paltz athletic director.