Claflin University has selected Dr. Jerome Fitch to be its next athletics director. The veteran athletics administer plans to contribute to the University’s strategic vision by elevating Claflin athletics programs in all facets.
“My goal here is to enhance fundraising, improve facilities and increase scholarships for every sport,” said Fitch, who previously served as the institution’s assistant athletics director for compliance. “I want to further the vision Dr. (Timothy) Autry established and make Claflin University one of the best NCAA Division II programs in the country.”
Fitch was selected by President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale to replace the retiring Dr. Timothy J. Autry, who had served in that position since 2005.
“Our Athletics Department is an importance source of spirit at Claflin University ( can we say something stronger than our athletics is a source of spirit??),” said Tisdale. “We are profoundly confident that Dr. Fitch can continue and expand on the phenomenal legacy left by his predecessor. I have every expectation Claflin student athletes will have even more opportunities to succeed on and off the field of play because of his leadership.”
Fitch says he will draw heavily from Autry’s “humility, sense of dedication and honesty” while serving this post.
In his previous capacity at Claflin, Fitch was instrumental in the University’s transition from an NAIA school to NCAA Division II by ensuring institutional compliance with all rules and regulations.
Fitch wants to bring an outside-of-the-box mentality to fundraising for the department while improving its image locally, regionally and nationally. “I want to explore avenues we haven’t in the past but continue to call upon our friends, alumni and corporate sponsors for support,” he said. “We will aim to improve our facilities to the point where they become the envy of any athletics program at the Division II level.”
In the past, Fitch has been an athletics director at Alabama A&M University and Savannah State University. At Alabama A&M, he cleaned up NCAA violations with its track and field and soccer programs while finalizing the construction of a football stadium. Fitch’s track record at Savannah State, an NCAA Division I school, included erasing a $197,000 debt.
He started his career as assistant athletics director and sports information director at North Carolina Central University in 1972. He went to be the head men’s basketball coach at Johnson C. Smith University, Voorhees College and Livingstone College. Fitch was also the head coach of the women’s basketball team at Elizabeth City State University. He worked for nearly eight years an academic advisor within the University of South Carolina’s athletics department.
“The biggest change in college athletics has been the transformation from it being amateur sports to a business-driven enterprise,” he said reflecting over his past three decades in college sports.
He cites his greatest influences as being Autry and NBA Hall of Famer Sam Jones, a personal friend of Fitch’s who delivered the keynote address at the Claflin Athletics Hall of Fame Banquet last year.
Fitch has a Doctor of Education degree from South Carolina State University and a Master of Education degree from North Carolina Central University. His favorite sports teams are the Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics, Washington Redskins and, of course, the Claflin Panthers.