Penn athletic director M. Grace Calhoun to lead Brown Athletics

M. Grace Calhoun is leaving Penn for her alma mater Brown. (Penn Athletics)

M. Grace Calhoun is making one big intra-Ivy move.

The seven-year Penn athletic director is leaving 33rd Street to lead Brown Athletics at her alma mater, Brown and Penn both announced Friday.

Calhoun, a 1992 Brown graduate and former track and field athlete there, will become vice president of athletics and recreation, a newly created position after former athletic director Jack Hayes left the university last month.

Rudy Fuller, Penn’s senior associate athletic director for intercollegiate programs and longtime former Penn men’s soccer coach, will serve as interim director of athletics and recreation until a permanent appointment is made.

Calhoun will supervise Brown’s NCAA Division I program consisting of 34 sports and a club sports program of more than 30 teams.

Penn teams won 27 Ivy League or conference championships in 16 sports since Calhoun took over as Penn’s athletic director upon predecessor Steve Bilsky’s retirement on July 1, 2014, including men’s basketball’s first Ivy League title in 11 years in 2018 and women’s basketball Ivy titles in 2016, 2017 and 2019.

Having hired a head coach for Loyola Chicago just a month after taking over as athletic director there in 2011 that would take the Ramblers to the Final Four seven years later, Calhoun made just one basketball head coaching hire for Penn and made the most of it.

In March 2015, Calhoun fired men’s hoops coach Jerome Allen and hired Steve Donahue to succeed him.

Penn went 65-104 (.385) in Allen’s six seasons at the helm, and Allen is still just one year into the 15-year show-cause order that the NCAA issued him last year after he received bribes from Florida businessman Philip Esformes to place his son, Morris Esformes, onto the recruited athletes list for the entering class of 2015.

Donahue rejuvenated the program, leading Penn to that 2018 Ivy title and NCAA Tournament appearance and going 83-64 (.565) in five seasons.

Still, there were transparency issues with the Penn Athletics investigation of Allen under Calhoun.

The next Penn athletic director will be tasked with giving Penn the resources it needs to stay in the upper echelon of the Ivy League. Penn is the only school in the conference whose men’s and women’s teams have qualified for the Ivy tournament all four seasons they’ve played since the tournaments were instituted starting with the 2016-17 season.

Now Calhoun will work to address Brown’s comparative lack of athletic success.

Brown’s Excellence in Brown Athletics Initiative to reshape its athletic department last year acknowledged that Brown earned just 2.8% of Ivy League titles in the decade ending in 2018, the lowest among member schools. The school walked back its initial solution to cut its number of varsity programs from 38 to 29, which it soon walked back, reinstating five of those programs.

Brown men’s basketball, led by another Brown alum who left Penn to come back to Providence, hasn’t qualified for the Ivy League Tournament in the four seasons since it was installed, while women’s hoops has qualified once, in 2017.

 

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