For CSUDH Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Eric McCurdy, intercollegiate athletics are more than just an entertaining diversion–they’re a way for universities to spread the good news about what they’re doing everywhere on campus.
“Athletics are the front porch of any university,” says McCurdy. “There’s an entire section of the newspaper dedicated to what we do. Any time we get a chance to highlight our athletic success, it gives people an opportunity to look deeper and see the university through a wider lens.”
McCurdy sees the athletic department as an extension of the CSUDH mission. Successful teams bring alumni and the community onto campus, maybe for the first time in years. “Athletics gives you an opportunity to showcase the remarkable things that are happening on campus. We want people in Carson and the surrounding communities to stay home and say, ‘This is my number one educational choice.’”
“When you talk about sports, people get excited,” he adds. “We want to make sure that we’re doing things the right way, so that we can showcase everything else going on at the university, far beyond what we’re doing in athletics.”
Born in Waco, Texas, McCurdy grew up in Tulsa, Okla., with his parents and sister. His grandfather and father (a doctor of veterinary medicine), attained degrees at the Tuskegee Institute, known today as Tuskegee University. As McCurdy puts it, “Education is the foundation within my family.”
McCurdy’s father instilled a strong work ethic in both of his children. “My father was an average student who studied hard to get straight A’s. He believed that for every hour of class time, you would study for two and a half hours. He took that same philosophy in sports to develop my sister and I.”
That effort and attention to detail resulted in both McCurdy and his sister becoming top-flight soccer players and athletes. “I’m dating myself here,” he laughs, “but we would watch VHS tapes on soccer skills, and for every hour we watched, we put in two and a half hours practicing those techniques.”
All of that hard work paid off, as McCurdy became one of the top high school soccer players in Oklahoma. He was the state’s leading scorer during his senior year, which led to a scholarship to play at the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB).
Even with that success, McCurdy says he still wasn’t the best athlete in his family. “I don’t say it often, but my sister was a better athlete than I was,” he laughs. “She broke a state record in track, played softball, and was an All-American in soccer.”
McCurdy graduated from UAB with a BS in psychology and a minor in physical education. (He later went on to graduate cum laude with a master’s degree in coaching and athletic administration from Concordia University.) He went right to work in the UAB athletic department after graduating, where he was mentored by legendary basketball coach Gene Bartow, the school’s athletic director at the time.
“He was known as Clean Gene,” says McCurdy. “He made sure that everything I learned was aligned with character and integrity. He was all about doing things the right way and making sure that you really were student-athlete centered.”
McCurdy brought the same nose-to-the-grindstone approach to his work as he did to his soccer career. “For me, success is all about two things that have nothing to do with athletic ability – attitude and effort,” he says.
After a few years at UAB, McCurdy moved to Houston to work with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, spearheading their youth soccer programs. He helped develop a club soccer program called the Houstonians for the city’s top “at risk” youth players. “I’m very proud that during my time there, we were able to get 18 student-athletes on full-ride university scholarships,” he says.
He then moved up the street to the University of Houston, where he served as the men’s basketball director of operations/athletics. “The last six years I was there, we had the highest men’s basketball GPA for a semester and a year in the history of the university. And we didn’t just excel academically, but athletically. We went to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 18 years. Now they’re a powerhouse!” he adds.
In 2010, McCurdy moved to Seattle, where he took the executive director of athletics position for Seattle Public Schools. He also served as the President of the city’s Metro League basketball program, a hotbed of talent that has put several players into the NBA, including 2023 Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero, and current Denver Nuggets starter Michael Porter, Jr.
McCurdy credits his time in Seattle with helping him better understand the needs of modern students. “We created a forum for student-athletes, where they had a voice and were able to tell us what was happening in their world,” he says. “This is where education and the NCAA are moving now. You’re outdated if you don’t listen to students and understand them and their needs.”
Before coming to CSUDH, McCurdy spent four years founding and running his own consulting firm, aiding mission-oriented organizations and advising on improving learning and working environments. He also provided guidance for potential student-athletes and their families through the NCAA recruitment and transfer portal process.
McCurdy sees himself as the perfect fit for the role of CSUDH associate vice president/director of athletics, due to its focus on student success. “As I look around this university, everybody cares about one thing – the students,” he says. “The leadership here is phenomenal, and I appreciate how faculty and staff collaborate to support the students in every way. I’ve worked at three Division I schools but haven’t seen anything like it.”
While acknowledging that attaining resources will always be an uphill battle at a Division II school, he is thrilled at the potential he sees at CSUDH. He is excited about the university’s plans for a new health and wellness center, which will give students a place to exercise and work out without leaving campus.
“I think it’s going to be a game changer for us,” he says. “We’re changing from a commuter college mentality to a destination university. We are improving our housing as well, so now students will have quality facilities for a well-rounded campus experience. Our leadership at CSUDH is changing the landscape for a student body that is one of the most diverse in the western region. Eventually, students will be able to go from class to playing a little ball, swimming, or lifting weights to the dining hall and then back to their dorm. The future is bright.”
McCurdy’s connection with students is what keeps driving him forward, and his goal is to ensure that Toro student-athletes “have the best experience in the world,” he says.
“What excites me is getting up every day knowing that we’re making a difference with students who are going to transform lives out in the world,” says McCurdy. “Students come here when they’re 18 years old, and are here until they’re 22 or 23. They become young men and women under our watch. We’re shaping young men and young women to be the future.”