Athletic Director Zalot resigns

After seventeen years in the Colby Athletic Department, Marcella Zalot has decided to move on. Zalot began at Colby as the Associate Athletic Director and later transitioned to her current post of Athletic Director where she has served for the past thirteen years. Her resignation, effective at the end of the calendar year, marks the end of an administrative era in Mules athletic history, as well as in her own career. When asked why she decided to step away she responded simply, “It’s just time for some new challenges and new opportunities. I’ve been here a long time, seventeen years.”

Zalot arrived on campus in the fall of 1997 when the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), still a loose conglomeration of like-minded schools, had not yet formalized into a playing conference. Under the old system, the NESCAC schools did not compete on an annual basis. It was Zalot’s job to create the schedules for most of Colby’s teams, which was no easy task. “Soccer had fourteen games,” Zalot explained, “and you basically called people you knew and hoped they would play you.” More often than not, this meant competing against local schools, as colleges in southern New England were reluctant to travel to Maine. “We always played Bates and Bowdoin because they’re an hour down the road…Amherst wouldn’t come here. Williams wouldn’t come here. Many of the Connecticut schools wouldn’t come here. They said, ‘yeah, maybe we’ll play you, but you’ve got to come to our place.’”

All this changed in 2000 as the NESCAC formalized into a legitimate playing conference. This move obliged Amherst and Williams to commute to Waterville, but it also meant playing the best Division III teams in the country. “It’s a great conference…and it’s a super competitive conference” noted Zalot.

The end of the 2000-2001 academic year marked a new beginning in Zalot’s career. Dick Whitmore, legendary basketball coach and then-AD, resigned, and the administration picked their Associate Director to usher Colby into the new age of collegiate athletics. The increased competition meant increased standards for Colby’s sports teams, and Zalot was responsible for establishing the right foundation. She understood that in order to compete with the NESCAC’s best, Colby would have to put an onus on recruiting. “[The] NESCAC is ultra competitive at such a high level, such a high national level these days, that if you can’t find the talent, identify the talent, work with the talent to get students interested in Colby, and then yield that talent… you will not have success.” 

Despite the challenges of recruiting against better-funded athletic programs such as Amherst and Williams, many of Colby’s 32 varsity sports have seen success during Zalot’s tenure. When asked about favorite memories of success Zalot recalled the 2003 women’s rowing team winning the National Championship, though she could easily have rattled off ten more.

In looking ahead to the next era of Colby athletics, Zalot foresees the challenges of a changing world, but she believes the athletic department is in a good place to face them head on. She is confident that the right head coaches are in place, and that the growing number of assistant coaches will prove to be critical assets as eyes, ears, and mouths on the field and recruiting trail. Overall, Zalot seemed satisfied with Colby’s sustained development as an athletic program. “There have been some things that I’ve accomplished that I feel good about, and I feel like our programs, for the most part, are moving in a good direction. So from that standpoint it feels like I could leave it in a decent place for the next person.”

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