“If it is to be, it’s up to me.”
These are the words that adorn a glazed basketball-court inspired coffee mug that sits on the corner shelf of Athletic Director and Vice President of Student Affairs Vic Trilli’s office. These, he says, are the words he has lived by for the past 44 years of his career in college athletics.
Trill announced his retirement at the 34th annual Jet Open banquet on Aug. 5.
Trilli will finish the academic year at Newman before leaving. He has been Newman’s athletic director for 10 years and vice president of student affairs for three.
“Sometimes you just know when it’s time,” Trilli said.
The night he announced his decision, Dan Giroux, Newman alum and president of the booster club, said the fundraiser spontaneously created a Kathy and Vic Trilli endowed scholarship in honor of the athletic director and his wife of 45 years.
The specific amount for the annual scholarship and the qualifications to receive it are still being determined, but Giroux said “it will be a significant amount.”
Giroux describes Trilli as “the cornerstone” of the successful fundraising efforts for Newman Athletics. From the half million dollars raised by the Gladiator Dash, to the Jet Open that has continued to exceed expectations every year, Giroux said, “Trilli laid the foundation for all of it.”
“Vic’s not afraid to talk to anybody. There’s no one who has more energy in the room than him. Being an athletic director at a small school can be a thankless job, but he’s tackled every obstacle in front of him,” Giroux said.
A common refrain from many coaches who worked under Trilli is “he gets stuff done.”
“What he’s done in his time there at Newman is really at another level. He’s more accomplished than he realizes,” said retired men’s basketball coach of 19 years Mark Potter.
Potter said Trilli’s high expectations and “go, go, go” attitude was something he could relate to. The former coach said there was never a time when he felt he couldn’t go to his athletic director for help.
“I was thankful when he got there. He would always tell us as coaches, ‘I may not be able to get something for you, but still come into my office and ask. I may not be able to do it, but I will try my best,’” Potter said. “What people don’t know about Vic Trilli is that he has a heart the size of Texas.”
Head Men’s Soccer Coach Cliff Brown said he recalls a particular instance where a storm took a heavy toll on the soccer field, destroying the sound system and knocking down the fencing. Brown said repairs cost around $70,000, and they would not have gotten done if not for Trilli.
“He’s the best thing that’s happened to this Athletic Department and to this university, and he’s going to be widely missed by our department and the students as well,” Brown said.
When Trilli came to Newman, the university was still in a probationary period from transitioning from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) to the The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). He coordinated the transition to the Heartland Conference and is currently overseeing the transition to the larger Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA).
In Trilli’s time as athletic director, Newman Athletics has seen several Heartland Conference Championships; two nationally televised men’s basketball games on CBS; and too many All-Conference players to count.
But for Trilli, there’s always more to get done. He said he still vividly remembers the day he interviewed for the athletic director’s job and had to change clothes in the Porta Potti by the soccer field.
“And so, I’m in my eleventh year and we still have Porta Potties over there. That’s a source of frustration because I wanted to make a difference there and haven’t been able to,” he said. “That’s one of those things that wears on me.”
But senior women’s soccer player Quincy Plank said the changes Trilli has made for the soccer teams recently are making a positive impact on her last year at Newman.
Last semester, Plank said, she and a couple of men’s soccer players approached Trilli and requested that the bathrooms across from the training room be converted to a locker room for the soccer teams.
“And he made that happen for us. They’re actually working on that right now,” she said. “For me, being a senior and having a really nice facility is awesome, and he organizes all of that.”
Trilli said he still isn’t sure of what his future holds after retiring. He said he and wife might move to his home state of Texas where most of his family lives, but he could also see himself staying in Wichita.
President Noreen Carrocci said the university has not yet started searching for a replacement, but will begin the process sometime after board meetings are over this September.
“It’s going to be a tough transition. He’s been a terrific athletic director, and taking on student life the last few years has really been good for student affairs, I think. He’s been, with me, the longest of all the cabinet members now, and I’m really going to miss him,” Carrocci said.
Trilli said the best advice he could give his future replacement is to put their commitment, faith and persistence into the job.
“You’ve got to be in it for the long haul,” he said. “In order to get the true benefit of what Newman is all about, you’ve got to understand the mission and be energized.”
PHOTO: VIC TRILLI has been Newman's athletic director for just over 10 years and has served as vice president of student affairs for the past three years. Carley Sullivan, Photography Editor