By John C. Stevenson
USC Upstate University Communications
Spartanburg, S.C. – University of South Carolina Upstate chancellor Dr. Brendan B. Kelly introduced incoming athletics director Julio Freire as someone who "captures the spirit of who we are trying to be in Spartan athletics."
Freire, whose hiring was announced July 3, will also serve as vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics. Although he has already participated in some on-campus events, Freire's tenure officially begins Aug. 1.
At the introductory press conference held July 6 in the G.B. Hodge Center, Kelly said he expects Freire will "help take us where I am absolutely certain we are going." He went on to say that Freire "has proven himself over and over again to be an inspiring leader, one that people want to follow."
After Kelly's introduction, Freire discussed his thoughts on joining the University.
"The Upstate region and USC Upstate are at a tipping point," he said. "As the only public comprehensive university in the area, we, the University of South Carolina Upstate, are the only university that can propel the entire region to the next level. As this great university celebrates its rich, 50-year history, as the department enters its ninth year as a Division I institution, USC Upstate is uniquely positioned to contribute and to meet the needs of the region – a responsibility we do not and will not take lightly."
Freire, a native of Tijuana, Mexico, was a student-athlete at Arizona State, where he ran cross country and track and field. He graduated from Arizona State in 1990 with a degree in education, then went on to earn a master's degree in counseling from the University of Phoenix in 1997.
After a decade of work at the secondary level as a high-school educator, counselor, coach and principal, Freire made the jump to intercollegiate athletics when he joined Ohio University in 2000 as an assistant athletic director for development, prior to being promoted to the associate director's post. His next stop was at Tennessee Tech, where he worked as associate athletic director for development from 2005 to 2007, before returning to the University of Arizona as associate athletic director from 2007 to 2010. Freire then served as senior associate athletic director at UNLV from 2010 to 2013, when he was hired to be the athletic director at the University of Tennessee-Martin.
During his stay at UT-Martin, four of the school's teams won Ohio Valley Conference championships, while fundraising gifts to the school increased by 300 percent and corporate sponsorships by 200 percent. He was also instrumental in developing a plan to renovate the school's football field, Harvey Graham Stadium.
Freire most-recently served from March of 2016 through April of this year as deputy athletic director for external affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.
During Thursday's press conference, Freire talked about his goals for the athletics program at USC Upstate.
"Everything that we do within the department will be about outcomes – measured outcomes," he said. "And within intercollegiate athletics, the number one outcome is always a student-athlete's experience. We define the student-athlete experience in three ways: academically; athletically; and socially. In short, we want our student-athletes to leave this wonderful institution with a meaningful degree in their left hand, championship ring on their right, and equipped to have a productive life and contribute to our society."
Freire replaces Lee Fowler, who served for four years before announcing his retirement in June. The incoming AD was joined at the introductory press conference by his wife of 20 years, Cherie, and their children, Christopher, 15, and Gabriella, 12.
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New AD Welcomed to USC Upstate during Introductory Press Conference