Throughout this (Jumbo) month, we’ve highlighted several facets of our athletics program. From the player experience, to our championship history, to club and intramural options, there’s a lot to look take pride in. We want to end our athletics showcase with an interview with Athletic Director, John Morris. Since John joined the herd in 2015, he has led our varsity athletics program to 14 NESCAC Championships and three National Championships. He is a huge supporter of all things Tufts and is incredibly excited to welcome you to the Jumbo family.
1. A central part of the Division III model is that student athletes’ academic and community involvement mirror that of the general student body. How do you see this reflected in Tufts student-athletes?
When I first arrived at Tufts, I remember being so excited to learn that four varsity student-athletes were among a select group of twelve seniors who received the Senior Award to recognize their academic success, leadership, and participation in campus and community activities. After nearly five years at Tufts, I continue to be amazed by the well-roundedness of our Jumbo student-athletes and the level at which they embrace and take advantage of the incredible array of student experience opportunities that Tufts provides.
Our student-athletes keep their primary focus on their academics, and with a 3.45 all-sport GPA and an ever-increasing number of academic honors rolling in each semester, the Jumbos truly are students first and athletes second. At the same time, our student-athletes are able to pursue their passions and interests on campus and in the community while competing for championships at the highest level of Division III athletics. Just like the rest of our student body, the Tufts student-athletes study abroad, participate in innovative research programs with faculty, assume leadership roles in student clubs and organizations, bring awareness to important social issues, and devote countless hours to supporting local and national charities and non-profits.
It’s that sort of balance that makes our student-athletes’ achievements on the field of play all the more impressive. And that sort of balance is not possible without our outstanding coaches who understand and believe that athletics excellence and full immersion in the Tufts student experience are not mutually exclusive endeavors.
2. What are some of your favorite Tufts athletics moments or traditions from the past five years that the general student body got to enjoy? Another way to frame this question is, what role does athletics play in school spirit at Tufts?
Among several favorite athletics moments I’ve been fortunate to experience with our student body here at Tufts, one that stands out to me was hosting the first night football game in school history a few years ago. We rented lights for the occasion, and it felt like the entire campus came out to Ellis Oval to enjoy the food trucks and music for the pre-game tailgate. The atmosphere around campus was so festive and fun that night, and it was great to see our Jumbos defeat Wesleyan 17-14 in an exciting 4th-quarter comeback under the lights. We’re now 2-0 in night games at Ellis Oval and look forward to continuing this tradition for years to come.
Our students have also enjoyed a bunch of fun moments in the comfortable confines of Cousens Gym. I remember the students having a great time watching President Monaco and a Tufts student compete in shooting contest against the Dean of Student Affairs and another student at half-time of a women’s basketball game (I won’t mention who won!). And just a few weeks ago, in front of a balcony-filled, standing-room only crowd in Cousens Gym, senior Eric Savage brought the house down with a stunning last-second, long-range three-pointer that forced overtime in the NESCAC men’s basketball championship game. The Jumbos went on to win the NESCAC championship in double-overtime – I love it when athletics brings people together, and watching the Tufts students rush the court after that game and celebrate with the team was one of my favorite moments at Tufts.
3. Your job is to oversee athletics, but in your role you interact with many campus partners. What is your favorite part about being a Tufts community member?
Tufts is the most student-centered and collaborative university I have experienced. I enjoy being a Tufts community member because, regardless of whether I’m interacting with Student Affairs, Admissions, Advancement, Facilities & Operations or any other campus unit, I find that the people at Tufts care about each other, support each other and root for each other, both personally and professionally. The spirit of collaboration at Tufts is genuine and special, and that’s something I feel is rooted in our common goal to develop, educate and support our students and provide them with a fun and transformative experience that will benefit them well beyond their time here on campus.