AP Sports Writer
RICHMOND, Va. - Ed McLaughlin thinks he's joining a success story already in progress, but with much more to be written.
The Niagara athletic director was introduced Tuesday as the new AD at Virginia Commonwealth University, ending a three-month search that began before the Rams announced they were leaving the Colonial Athletic Association for the Atlantic 10 on July 1. McLaughlin, 39, replaces Norwood Teague, who left in April for Minnesota.
"VCU has reached incredible heights ... but the climb has just started in my opinion," McLaughlin said, speaking of the Rams' stunning run to the men's basketball Final Four in 2011, and in anticipation of competing in the Atlantic 10 beginning in the fall.
"You have the ability here to take a success story and make it something incredibly special," he told a crowd that included board members and boosters. "I think VCU is a place where we can win a national championship."
It was McLaughlin's energy and enthusiasm that sold president Michael Rao and VCU's search committee on McLaughlin.
"He's the right person at the right time," Rao said. "He has the vision, the energy and the commitment that we need to continue this upward trajectory that we have enjoyed in recent years. ... Above all, one of the most important things to me, he's a partner with an unwavering commitment to ethical standards, so he's not just out to win. He's out to win the right way."
Niagara did a lot of winning, and growing, in McLaughlin's six seasons as director. Rao said the school won more championships in those six years than in the previous 75 years combined, and McLaughlin said the key was changing the culture.
At VCU, he said, the move to the A-10 will be challenging, but not just for the Rams' programs.
"I think certainly people here don't understand how great of a league the Atlantic 10 is," McLaughlin said in an interview, "and I'm not quite sure the Atlantic 10 understands what they're getting themselves into either" with the addition of VCU.
One of the people that sold him on the job was men's basketball coach Shaka Smart, a member of the search committee. But Smart said he didn't need to do much selling.
"He's really fired up about being here, and that's what you want," Smart said.
McLaughlin said his early priorities will be filling out his staff, assessing the school's athletics facilities and determining what the school's programs need to succeed against Atlantic 10 competition, and then enjoying making an impact in the new league.
"We can come in and sort of make our mark right away," he said, "and that's exciting."
McLaughlin starts Aug. 13.
At Niagara, of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, McLaughlin presided over a department that fielded teams in 18 sports, two more than VCU. He also oversaw work on five major construction projects, made huge gains in the amount of donations coming into the school, served on several national committees and is the chairman of the NCAA Hockey Rules Committee.
He also created the Niagara Sports Network, which broadcasts the school's men's basketball and hockey games to homes throughout the country.
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