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Cresson’s Todd Garzarelli worked hard to reach his dream job as A.D. at IUP -- then Covid hit

Todd with wife, Leah, son Gabe, and daughter Goia, at Wisconsin-Whitewater

… the Penn Cambria grad is happy to finally be back home

When young people enter the field of athletic administration, they realize that moving from one school to another is part of the equation.

That was the case with Todd Garzarelli, who moved across many states in his first eight professional positions after graduating from Slippery Rock University in 1997.

However, 22 years after leaving college, he was hired as the Athletic Director at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), a dream job for him because it returned him to the area where he graduated from high school and where he met and married his wife.

The move was also a significant one professionally since IUP has one of the premiere athletic programs in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and is an NCAA Div. II school with approximately 10,000 undergrads.

Returning home

The joy of spending time with family was a great incentive when he moved into a prestigious athletic administration position on the Indiana campus,

It was really nice to back home to an area that I love, both from a professional and personal standpoint. It is great to be near family. My wife Leah (Lysic) went to Bishop Carroll and is from Cresson, and for the first time in my professional life, we are able to be around family. We always tried to come back home on vacations, but now, obviously, being around family all year and at holidays is pretty special for us.

I always wanted to work at a small Div. I or a Div. II school. So, coming to IUP was like doing what I wanted professionally.

Todd Garzarelli interview, Jan. 2022

Todd and Leah have two children, a daughter Goia, who is a freshman in high school, and a son Gabe, who is in the fifth grade. They live in Indiana.

Love of sports started with family

Todd was born in the Philadelphia area to Louis and Barbara Garzarelli, and he then moved to Lewisburg, Pa. where his father was employed by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

When he was in eighth grade, the Garzarelli family moved to Cresson, where he competed athletically for the Penn Cambria Panthers and graduated in 1992 — and where he met his wife.

However, his fascination with sports originated with his family, and that has remained with him throughout his life.

My love of sports probably came from my grandfather [Louis Garzarelli]. He would take us out every day and play ball, roll ground balls to us, hit the ball off the T — whatever sport was in season.

It was a great bonding experience, and we played every day, just went out and played all the sports.

Todd Garzarelli interview, Jan. 2022

He played football and baseball along with spending time wrestling and playing basketball for the PC Panthers. However, the emphasis with his father went beyond athletics.

Part of an AD's job is listening to the old-timers


However, while sports were a major focus in life, his father managed to inspire Todd and his three siblings — Lou, John, and Mark — to go beyond that,

We moved to Cresson when I was in eighth grade. We were in Philly until third grade and then at Lewisburg. Then when the prison in Loretto opened, my dad was one of first to open up that prison.

My dad was always big on education. He went back and earned a degree in criminology when I was in junior high, and then he went on and got his doctorate. He started the criminology program at Mount Aloysius and taught there.

Todd Garzarelli interview, Jan. 2022

The result is that Todd has earned three master’s degrees along with his bachelor’s.

The career track

Todd started on his career path at the United States Air Force Academy after leaving college, and it later also included a position at West Point during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He worked first in marketing before earning an associate A.D. position at Northern Illinois.

His work included positions from NCAA Div. I to Div. II to Div. III,

I knew early in my profession that I was going to have to move a lot, so I tried to network and develop a base of professionals who could help me move up and go from one job to the next spot. I worked hard until I had the stability to apply for upper administration positions. I have been fortunate to work with many good people and at many institutions, both public and private.

I have been able to be part of the setting of a lot of milestones and high achievements, even some historical movements on the social side. I was at Army on Sept. 11, and at Northern Illinois when a mass shooting occurred.

I have had the chance to go to bowl games and a part of conference champions and meet some good coaches along the way. I have also been part of fundraising for some capital projects.

All of this gave me an opportunity to be active in the community and be on boards like the Red Cross and boys and girls clubs.

Todd Garzarelli interview, Jan. 2022

That great resume led him to IUP.

IUP experience

Todd was hired at IUP in May 2019, and he immediately started working on improving the facilities there. His first effort centered on the Memorial Field House, where he improved the auxiliary gym, making it into a practice space for teams with an indoor turf. He also changed the lobby into a “fueling station for athletes.”

However, the major part of the experience of an A.D. is improving the lives and performances of the athletes who perform in 17 sports.

His career, like that of all of those in athletic administration and college coaching, changed dramatically in early 2020 with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. It provided him with the most gut-wrenching moment of his professional life,

I will never forget what it was like to walk into a room filled with athletes and coaches to tell them that their seasons were over. For some of the seniors, it meant that their careers were ending.

We were hosting both the NCAA men's and women’s basketball regionals, and I had to tell them that the NCAA was shutting down and their seasons were over. Hosting both of those was really a feat in itself since getting both the men’s and women’s hosting at one location is tough.

We had teams and individuals with chances to win titles, like golf and track. And our spring sports were just underway. Our softball team was in Florida, and we had to pull them off the road. The parents were very concerned about flying because at that time, there were more questions than answers about (the virus).

We had to shut down completely in fall 2020, and the only winter sport that year was swimming. Going into fall, we had facility projects and two turf projects that had to shut down.

Todd Garzarelli interview, Jan. 2022

To work through something like this is very challenging for everyone involved, particularly the athletic administrators and coaches, and obviously for the athletes, but IUP returned to normal last fall.

However, with the new onset of the Omicron variant and the large number of new cases, the administrators had to wrestle with that like they did in 2020.

Since Covid hit, many resources have changed, such as staffing wise. So, I am trying to keep focused and keep the morale up. We have the NCAA testing platforms to use with testing and quarantining. Trying to stay ahead of the curve a bit is often daunting.

We are constantly trying to juggle officials and reschedule games. And, during the games, we have to ensure that we have Covid safety.

Todd Garzarelli interview, Jan. 2022

Working in an area that he loves

Todd Garzarelli has loved sports from his earliest years playing with his grandfather and then playing for the Penn Cambria Panthers during high school.

However, few people have the chance to work in it for an entire career. He has worked hard to reach the administrative position that he has, and while Covid has provided challenges, the IUP teams are competing again and that in itself is satisfying.

Moving around is a challenge, as his career moves show. That is the road that you need to travel to experience success.

Todd’s Career

1998-99 Air Force Academy, Marketing and Development Assistant

2000-01 University of Missouri, Marketing Associate

2001-04 Army Athletic Association, Director of Marketing

2004-08 Northern Illinois, Assoc. AD for Marketing, Broadcast, and Corporate Relations

2008-11 Southern Illinois University, Assoc. AD for External Affairs and Major Gifts

2011-13 Northwestern State University, Assoc. A.D. for External Affaires/Exec. Dir. NSU

Ate. Assn.

2013-17 University of Buffalo, Assoc. A.D. for External Affairs

2017-19 Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

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