Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Commissioner Richard J. Ensor, Esq., announced his retirement today. The MAAC Commissioner since 1988, Ensor’s tenure will conclude at the end of the 2022-23 season.
“It has been a privilege to serve as Commissioner of the MAAC since 1988 and represent a conference dedicated to achieving success in academics and athletics,” notes Ensor. “I want to thank the generations of coaches, athletes and administrators who have competed in the MAAC during my tenure for their commitment to these goals and the MAAC Council of Presidents for their on-going support.”
“I also want to single out the numerous MAAC staff members who contributed through their individual commitments to the success of the league,” continued Ensor. “It is a source of pride for me to see how these former staff members have succeeded in their own careers that often began as entry level fellows and directors at the MAAC.”
“Finally, I want to thank my family for their support and understanding of the many time demands that a Commissioner juggles in managing a NCAA Division I Conference,” said Ensor. “Deirdre Ensor has been an integral part of my own success as she managed our family. It has been a great journey together.”
The longest tenured NCAA Division I multi-sport conference commissioner, Ensor has held his post at the MAAC since August 1988, when he was named as the third commissioner of the MAAC. When Ensor’s tenure culminates next June, he will have served as MAAC commissioner for approximately 35 years; the longest DI commissioner term in NCAA history, surpassing Doug Elgin of the Missouri Valley Conference, who held his post at the MVC for 33 years.
“Rich Ensor has been an outstanding commissioner of the Metro Athletic Atlantic Conference for nearly 34 years,” said Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., President of Niagara University and MAAC President. “Throughout his tenure he has maintained a critical focus on the student-athlete experience, as well as a focus on strong advocacy for the inclusion of women's sports, with women's basketball being a powerful example. In the ever-changing world of NCAA athletics, his steady leadership has provided the conference with strength and stability; his innovative leadership has led to a groundbreaking partnership with ESPN as well as the expansion of the conference membership. His guidance has laid the groundwork for the continued success of the conference, including the groundbreaking global success of the Saint Peter's men's basketball program during March Madness of this year. The enduring and future success of the MAAC has Rich Ensor's imprint on it, as well as the legacy of critical partnerships and relationships within collegiate athletics and beyond.”
The MAAC has thrived significantly under Ensor’s guidance and has been at the forefront of evolution throughout his tenure.
When Ensor was hired in 1988, the MAAC sponsored 13 sports and championships and held just two NCAA Championship automatic qualifications (men’s basketball and women’s basketball). Those quantities have since grown to 24 sports and championships and 15 NCAA AQs during his time at the helm of the league. In addition to the current 24 sports, the MAAC also previously sponsored both a football league and ice hockey league, at which time the conference sponsored a league-record 26 sports.
A pioneer of equity, Ensor has been involved with the growth of women’s sports and more specifically, women’s basketball. He serves on the boards of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, has chaired the Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee and has been a past member of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee. Ensor was instrumental in combining the women’s basketball tournament with the men’s basketball tournament in 1992 at what was then called Knickerbocker Arena in Albany, NY (currently MVP Arena), having both tournaments run simultaneously at the same neutral site for 30 consecutive years – the longest running combined neutral site basketball tournaments in DI. The WBCA has honored Ensor twice for his contributions to women’s basketball with the coach’s association’s Presidents Award in 2014 and as its Administrator of the Year in 2015.
In the late 90’s, Ensor expanded the MAAC’s reach both nationally and internationally.
In the summer of 1998, the league would announce a partnership with Disney’s Wide World of Sports (WWOS) in Orlando, FL as part of the conference’s mission to provide a world-class sports championship experience for its student-athletes, their families, and fans. The inaugural event hosted at Disney would be the 1998 MAAC Volleyball Championship. The partnership between the MAAC and Disney has continued and expanded over the past 23 years, adding men’s and women’s cross country, men’s soccer, and women’s soccer in alternating years during the fall, and men’s and women’s golf annually held in Disney during the spring. Furthermore, Ensor and the MAAC have also brought basketball to the Disney stage, co-hosting the ESPN Events Invitational (previously the Old Spice Classic) annually since 2006 during Thanksgiving and more recently a pair of MAAC/ASUN Challenges in 2019 and 2021, with both events played inside of the ESPN WWOS Field House.
During the same summer in July, Ensor took MAAC basketball international, creating a men’s basketball All-Star team and taking them on an eight-game exhibition tour through Japan. The team traveled to six cities over a 14-day period, making stops in Fukuokam Kobe, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Fukui. Seven years later during the summer of 2005, Ensor and the MAAC would again sponsor a men’s basketball All-Star Tour, this time taking 12 student-athletes from the 10 member institutions on a two-week, seven game exhibition tour of China. Since, the MAAC has partnered with the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and Sports Changes Life to host two Belfast Classics (2017 and 2018) in Northern Ireland and will co-host the MAAC/ASUN Dublin Basketball Challenge presented by Inspirus Sports, in Dublin, Ireland and London Basketball Classic in London, England both in the fall of 2022.
Ensor has also put the MAAC on a national and regional broadcast scene, showcasing the league’s premiere sports through top networks such as ESPN, MSG Network, SportsChannel-NY, to name a few. During his first year at the helm of the conference, Ensor signed a television deal with SportsChannel, allowing the company to broadcast eight men’s basketball games during the 1988-89 season. By 1995, that quantity would increase to 19 men’s games and five women’s game, which included the women’s semifinals and championship game. Shortly after, in the summer of 1995, Ensor and the MAAC would agree on an unprecedented eight appearances nationally on ESPN and ESPN2, also featuring the women’s basketball championship airing live on ESPN2 for the first time ever. By 2011, Ensor, the MAAC and ESPN would announce a six-year rights agreement extension for enhanced coverage of MAAC men’s and women’s basketball across multiple platforms, with the deal featuring a record of 80 national appearances over 40 scheduled contests – the most ever for the MAAC. The conference would continue to grow its partnership with ESPN in May 2014 with the launch of the MAAC branded ESPN3 channel and school produced ESPN3 broadcasts. In May 2016, Ensor embarked on a new eight-year agreement with ESPN to include broadcast annually on ESPN2, ESNPU, ESPN3, and ESPN+ including men' and women's basketball and championships from ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, FL. The deal also catapulted ESPN3 school productions in which all MAAC member institutions will have fully operational ESPN facilities/trucks and each school produces and transmits their own broadcast to ESPN. The agreement to have school’s producing upwards to 600 broadcasts a year by 2025-26, was exceeded in 2021-22, with MAAC schools producing a conference-record 646 total ESPN productions.
Ensor is a 1975 graduate of MAAC charter member, Saint Peter’s University (formerly College). In 1982, he was awarded a Master's degree in sports management with honors from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and in 1987 he graduated from Seton Hall University's School of Law and was admitted to the New Jersey Bar in June of that year. Ensor has served in many administrative capacities in college sports prior to his time as MAAC Commissioner, including positions at his alma mater, Saint Louis University and Seton Hall University.
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