Flashback Friday is looking back at the top moments from the 2017-18 athletic year each Friday over the summer at the College of Staten Island. This one was oh-so-close to the top but lands at No. 2. In 2017-18, the College of Staten Island accumulated enough points to overtake the CUNYAC competition in winning its first CUNYAC Commissioner’s Cup since 2001. The monumental accomplishment came on the heels of a fantastic finish that saw the Dolphins win a pair of CUNYAC titles.
#2 – CSI Athletics - CSI wins first Commissioner’s Cup since 2000-01
Date: May 17, 2018
Who: CSI Athletics
Where: John Jay College – New York, NY
What Happened: CSI made history in mid-May by capturing only the second CUNYAC Commissioner’s Cup in their history, and the campus’ first since the 2000-01 athletic year. CSI defeated second-place Hunter by eight points, breaking their two-year reign at the top. The Cup awards athletic department performances in up to 10 sports and CSI scored points in nine sports in 2017-18. The points earned were the 5th highest in their history and marks the sixth-straight year that CSI has eclipsed the 100-point plateau.
.Q&A…with CSI Athletic Director Charles Gomes
Charles, you recently completed your fifth year as CSI Athletic Director. Would you say this is the biggest accomplishment the Department has had since your arrival? I don’t think so. I try not to see things as accomplishments but as steps, and it is something our staff is on board with also. When you have an entire department putting in hard work and on the same page competitively it’s natural to have good results. These type of honors become a by-product of the staff we have, the type of camaraderie that we have,and what we are trying to build.
The margin of CSI’s win was so small, and it came down to a couple of great performances this spring with Softball and Baseball. Were you aware that the Commissioner’s Cup was hanging in the balance? Absolutely. I would be lying if I said otherwise. The past three years, when we finished second for two years and this year when we finished first, have all been between five and 10 points and it speaks to the competitiveness of the top teams in our conference. It is very competitive and we hope to keep it that way going forward.
The Commissioner’s Cup is about athletic excellence but it’s also about having consistency across the board in a number of sports. How do you feel about the consistent achievement that CSI has had over the years? I think we have shown some improvement in that area but we also have a long way to go. Top to bottom we are pushing our teams to be more competitive. We understand that we need to be patient, but again I think our entire staff is always looking to make that push forward. Some years you will have injuries, or missed shots, and things won’t go your way, but we know that if we put in the work, we will be competitive in all of our sports.
One major point-getter was Men’s Basketball, one of just three teams with a first-year coach a year ago. How impressed were you with their performance under first-year coach T.J. Tibbs? I could not be more impressed in year one than how I was last year with T.J. as head coach. We had a lot of people apply for that position and it was not an easy decision. He proved during the year that he was the right hire. The work that he put in was amazing and what impressed me most with men’s basketball was that they achieved everything they did with class. Even with the loss in the NCAA Tournament, Cabrini’s athletic department was so complementary of the young men, our team and our coaches. Hearing that solidified to me that T.J. was the right man for the job.
That same coach (TJ Tibbs) recently was elevated to a full-time position, and that has been a theme of yours since you took over as Athletic Director. How happy are you to see that materialize? I am very happy to see the transition of some of our coaches from part-time to full-time with other duties start to come to fruition. We have talked about it for a long time. The move gets our coaches here with more consistency, it makes us more competitive, it benefits the student-athletes. Our main goal is always to improve the experience for our athletes, and having coaches here full-time will help make that happen.
The night of the Commissioner’s Cup ceremony, you shared the stage with CSI’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year Ewa Wojciechowska. How impressive to you is it to celebrate so many great athletic achievements alongside terrific academic accomplishments such as Ewa’s? I take a lot of pride in that. The fact that we have had several student-athletes win that award in particular and the prestige that it holds means a lot to me. Not only do we want our student-athletes to achieve on the field, on the court or in the pool, but we want them to achieve academically as well and to be rewarded for it. It speaks to the mission of Division III athletics and we try and reinforce it here. We want our athletes to know that if they come to play at CSI, they can have the best of both worlds and have success on the field and in the classroom. That is our expectation.
Winning an award like this doesn’t happen in a vacuum. What can you say about the dedicated staff and coaches that have given input into an award like this one? It starts from the top. Our President and the upper administration have been incredibly supportive and have set the precedent for our campus and how we view the importance of athletics. This trickles down to our administration in athletics, our coaches, and of course, our student-athletes. Everyone here is a part of our success abd I hope everyone feels that way.
In the past, winning an award like this was very difficult, because only sponsoring 14 sports in total, a vast majority would have to achieve top honors to make an impact, whereas some other schools have more sports to utilize for this. Given that, how much more impressive is an award like this? I don’t know if it is more impressive , it just means that our teams have put in a lot of hard work and it materialized into good seasons. It also speaks to the competitive nature at the conference level. We’ve actually scored more points in the past, but when you have more teams in the mix competing for championships it makes for more balanced competition and I think that is a positive for the entire conference.
The bar is high at CSI for so many reasons, and then you add varsity Track & Field this year, and so many new coaches in the mix…how does that all come together this year, in your opinion? I think what we are trying to do here is have an expectation that we are going to be competitive across the board, and maybe a lot of schools that have slept on us in the past will be surprised. We are bringing in people who want to take the next steps, whether that is winning our first-ever CUNYAC Championship in some sports or taking a step or two deeper into the national tournament, moving further is the expectation of our program. We talk about it often, we plan for it, and our coaches are on the same page.
Finally, you give a lot of your attention to all teams at CSI and of course oversee the entire operation, but what would you say are your favorite aspects of the job or favorite moments from the past year in particular? My favorite aspects are seeing the student-athletes. Watching them work, seeing their development, seeing them mature is what excites me. Seeing our athletes putting in the work and then getting honored for that in a variety of ways is my absolute favorite part. As far as my favorite moment from last year, I’d have to say it was our NCAA Tournament game in men’s basketball last year. Even though we lost the game, the entire day, the weather that day, those big shots we made, the buzzer-beater, and seeing how that team developed and the positive things that were said about our program, that’s what college athletics is all about, and it was certainly one of my favorite moments.