MIDDLETOWN — Xavier has hired an athletic director for only the third time in its 56-year history.
Matt Martorelli, the AD at Northwest Catholic since 2011, will succeed Tony Jaskot, who is retiring this summer. Martorelli’s contract begins June 1, after he finishes the school year in West Hartford. He will assume full-time duties in July, a Xavier official said Tuesday.
Martorelli, 33, was chosen from a pool that included Xavier assistant AD Dan DeConti.
Dave Eustis, who has been the headmaster at Xavier since 2017, and Martorelli get to work together once again. Eustis was president and chief administrator at Northwest Catholic before being hired at Xavier.
“Having worked with Matt for five years at Northwest Catholic, I am excited about the energy and enthusiasm he will bring to Xavier Athletics,” Eustis said in a statement. “As a former Division I college athlete, we look forward to Matt’s leadership in the years to come.”
Martorelli said he and Eustis worked well together in the past.
“It’s just icing on the cake that Dave is at Xavier,” Martorelli told the Press. “By no means is that why I applied for this position. It’s an exciting opportunity for me and my family to get involved with Xavier athletics.”
Martorelli replaces an icon in Jaskot, who himself replaced an icon in Art Kohs.
Kohs coordinated and oversaw the athletics program at the time of the school’s opening in 1963. He also made a mark as the Falcons’ basketball coach, and the gymnasium is named for him. Jaskot, an accomplished quarterback at Xavier in the late 1960s, returned after college to teach and coach. He succeeded Kohs in 1997.
“The fact there have been only two ADs at Xavier shows the type of community I’m going to be working with,” Martorelli said, “a very supportive community that values the importance of athletics. It is extremely important when you’re trying to build on the previous tradition there.
“I love challenges, and to be able to have some mentorship and follow in the footsteps of these legends, and learn from them and hit the ground running, is exciting.”
What also drew him to the job, Martorelli said, was Xavier’s overall themes of “spirit, mind, body and a Christian framework.”
“There is no other place in the state of Connecticut where you can create men, especially where the mission statement is ‘Be a man.’ That was very attractive,” he said.
Martorelli was raised in Newington (his father grew up in Middletown). He was a big kid walking the halls as a second-year student at Northwest when he was encouraged by a coach to go out for the football team. He became a two-year, two-way varsity lineman and was voted team MVP in 2002.
“The two years playing football at Northwest Catholic changed the direction of my life,” he said.
During his senior season, Martorelli was recruited by a guy named Chip Kelly to play at the University of New Hampshire and ended up being a four-year offensive lineman for the Wildcats. In those days, Kelly, now the head coach at UCLA, coordinated a hurry-up, no-huddle offense that set school record upon school record.
“From the second half of my freshman year through graduation, we were first in scoring and yardage (in what was then known as Division I-AA) and last in time of possession,” Martorelli recalled. “We were a high-powered, fast-moving offense that didn’t take a lot of time on the line of scrimmage. Our practice was our conditioning every single day.”
At New Hampshire, he realized early on what he wanted his working life to look like.
“I knew I wanted to get involved with sports. It was very clear to me,” Martorelli said. “I had fantastic coaches in high school, but in college I really got to appreciate the role adults play in young men’s lives. You’re away from home for the first time and coaches become your parents. You respect the job they have to do.”
After graduating with a degree in sociology, Martorelli returned to Northwest Catholic to teach social studies and coach. He oversaw the football team’s linemen, assisted for boys lacrosse and ran the girls golf team. He also launched Northwest’s International Students Program. Part of the role was to make trips to China to interview applicants who wanted to come to the United States to learn the language and study at his school.
“It helped me mature at a young age,” he said. “I was around 24 at the time. The opportunities to travel to Asia definitely opened my eyes. It was an unbelievable experience.”
Martorelli became Northwest’s athletic director in 2011. Overseeing Xavier athletics — he will not teach or coach — will be an adjustment in scale, he noted. There are 20 varsity programs at Xavier, including ones — wrestling, crew and rifle, to name a few — not offered at Northwest. Xavier also has an array of club teams.
“Xavier is triple the population of Northwest,” he said. “It will be an exciting opportunity for me to work with programs that really begin at the freshman level, and then junior varsity and varsity.”
Martorelli will shadow Jaskot in June to prepare himself for the everyday responsibilities of the job. He is looking forward to working with Xavier’s alumni network.
“I think when I have the opportunity to meet with alumni and express my enthusiasm, passion and goals for this job … I hope they’ll welcome me with open arms,” he said. “Even in the interview process I kept hearing about how passionate the alumni are, and that got me more excited about the position.”