Troy athletic director speaks at Rotary

Published 5:37 pm Friday, March 6, 2015

The Rotary Club of Greenville welcomed John Hartwell, Troy University’s athletic director, to highlight his vision for the future of Troy Athletics in the coming year.

Hartwell also discussed Troy University’s present, outlining the various athletic programs and their progress.

Notable among them was the women’s basketball program, which has made a “huge, huge transformation” with third-year coach Chandra Rigby at the helm.

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The team sits at 19-9 overall and 14-5 within the Sun Belt, putting the Trojans at third place within the conference.

The women’s basketball team will seek it’s 20th win in its one remaining game against rival school South Alabama tonight.

“I don’t want to count our chickens before they hatch,” Hartwell said.

“But certainly we believe that we will win that game, get to 20 regular season wins and put ourselves in a position next week in the Sun Belt conference tournament to make a very good run at an NCAA bid.”

Hartwell added that in the worst-case scenario of the team not winning the conference tournament next week, it would still earn a bid to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).

Hartwell also remarked on Troy head baseball coach Bobby Pierce’s final season as head coach—one that should prove a landmark season of Troy baseball in many respects.

“He has been tremendous to our program,” Hartwell said.

“He is only eight wins short of Chase Riddle’s all-time school record for number of wins.  That will happen in the very near future this season.”

Hartwell added that despite the bittersweet departure of a longtime coach, the transition would at least be an easy one.

“The great thing about our baseball program is that he is handing the reigns over to Coach Mark Smart, who won a national championship at Troy and has coached alongside Bobby for the last 13 years,” Hartwell continued.

“And we will not skip a beat.”

He isn’t the only Smart to join the team, as his son, two-time MVP Chase Smart, will be coming to Troy next year as a catcher.

New personnel aren’t the only additions to Troy Athletics, as the school is continuing to compete in what Hartwell called an “arms race” with facility upgrades.

Within the past year, the Troy golf program began playing on a new six-hole, 4,500 square-foot on-campus practice facility that houses a state-of-the-art clubhouse.

Also underway is the north end zone project for Veterans Memorial Stadium, which is estimated to cost between $25-28 million.

The constant renovations are a means of adding wow factor to the campus, which Hartwell said was vital for attracting young talent for the school’s various programs.

Another equally-attractive benefit for possible recruits lies in a passionate coach, and he believes he has found one in new Troy head football coach Neal Brown.

“He has hit the ground running,” Hartwell said.

“Certainly, a tremendous groundwork was laid by Coach Larry Blakeney and his accomplishments in his quarter-century at Troy, but the energy and enthusiasm that Neal brings… and three things that are very, very important are accountability, discipline and hard work.

“I tell you, these guys are working like they’ve never worked before.”

The same applies to the coaching staff, which consists of a blend of new and familiar faces for a potent balance of ideas.

And the Trojans will need them, too, with a number of notable road games—including Wisconsin and Mississippi State—making for a tough 2015 schedule.

NC State, Boise State and Southern Mississippi are headed to Troy.

“We’re wanting to make sure that we create an environment where folks want to come,

Whether you have a Troy allegiance, an Auburn allegiance or an Alabama allegiance, as I go out visiting with folks about investing in Troy Athletics, it’s not just about who your initial allegiance is to—is also about the investment in the area.

“It helps not only the City of Troy and Troy University, but the entire area.”