Jude Killy is introduced as the new director of athletics at the University of Maine in Orono, Maine, on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022. Credit: Simon French / UMaine Athletics

ORONO, Maine — Jude Killy has done his homework.

He is leaving a stable environment at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, to tackle one that is far from that at the University of Maine, where he was introduced as the new athletic director on Tuesday at Alfond Arena in Orono.

The University of Maine’s athletic program is underfunded and possibly facing another budget cut, its coaches are among the lowest paid in their respective conferences, and enrollment at the state’s only Division I institution is plummeting.

It is a daunting challenge and Killy, who was the deputy director of athletics and chief of staff at Miami University in Ohio, said he is ready to take it on.

“In everything, there is opportunity,” said the 50-year-old native of Oxford, Ohio, who noted that the $90 million gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation to upgrade the athletic facilities could be transformational for the athletic department.

“I think the bones of the department are good. There are really, really good people here. The reputations of the coaches, the support staff, you know, the human resource piece you can’t replace. That was really enticing,” Killy said. “And, frankly, from a university leadership standpoint, there are a lot of people that are really interested in athletics and want to support athletics at a high level.”

In establishing a blueprint for the athletic program, the former soccer player at John Carroll University in Ohio said the item at the top of his list is how to best utilize the Alfond gift for the upgrade of the facilities.

“At Miami, we were lucky enough to build a lot of facilities while I was there, either completely renovate or build brand new. So I know that it takes a lot of planning and coordination. So, I’m excited about what the future holds for those opportunities,” he said.

Killy has been at Miami since 2008 after spending six years at the University of Pittsburgh.

He has a strong background in fundraising and said it is important to establish relationships and understand donor intent.

“Everything we do has to be driven by donor intent from a philanthropy standpoint,” Killy said. “That’s what we’re going to find out. Who wants to be involved, why they want to be involved and see how we can push that forward together.”

He is leaving a state with several Division I schools to a state where UMaine is the only one but sees that as an advantage for the university.

“Being the flagship and the only D1 institution in the state is a huge positive. There are a lot of other wonderful academic institutions within the state of Maine but having that presence, there’s some pomp and circumstance to that,” he said.

He said he is inheriting “by and large, a very good coaching staff,” which was another reason for his interest in the job.

“There are a lot of younger folks here in want or need of guidance and support. That was really intriguing to me,” he said. “That and the other piece with the facilities. Who doesn’t want to build and transform? All of those were part of the larger scale opportunity.”

He said they all add up to an “opportunity of a lifetime.”

He addressed a packed Alfond Lounge before meeting with the media.

He thanked many people and got emotional when talking about the influence Miami Director of Athletics David Sayler had on him.

“He pushed me, he mentored me, he empowered me and held me accountable. He sought out my weaknesses and strengthened them and doubled down on my strengths,” said Killy, who added that the most important piece of advice he received from him was “you need to focus on progress, not perfection.”

Killy admitted he used to be a perfectionist but that Sayler’s mentoring changed his management style significantly.

“He told me if you take a month to make a decision, you’re going to be backed up for the other 20 decisions you have to make. So you’re better off making 10 decisions quickly and hitting on seven of them to keep moving forward,” Killy said.

The married father of two daughters said he had never been to Maine until last week and is looking forward to exploring the state.

UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy said the thing that sold her on Killy was the fact he had “outstanding questions … deep, thoughtful, careful questions of me. He could envision himself on the job and was trying to dig in and find a way to make a connection.”

Killy is a firm believer in integrating the athletic program into the fabric of the university so there is a strong bond and a supportive culture like they have at Miami.

“We want the student-athletes to have everything they need to be successful. They aren’t going to get everything they want. That’s just how life is,” he said.

He believes academics and athletics go hand-in-hand and praised UMaine women’s basketball coach Amy Vachon and her 2020-21 team for having the nation’s best grade-point average (3.9) among all schools in any division.

He said it showed teams can have success both on and off the playing field.

He concluded his speech by saying it’s “no time for hugs and high-fives. It’s time to roll up my sleeves and get to work.”