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Endowment and Player Development: Creating Leaders with Character

Published: November 20, 2017
Players like Conor Crile ’18 benefit from the support of head baseball coach Joe Urso ’92 and endowment donors Stu and Diane Williams.
Players like Conor Crile ’18 benefit from the support of head baseball coach Joe Urso ’92 and endowment donors Stu and Diane Williams.

“There’s more to a developing a baseball team than what happens on the field,” said Joe Urso ’92, UT’s head baseball coach, while heading north on Interstate 75 on a player recruiting trip. “It also takes a team of people off field dedicated to excellence.”

While Urso can tout achievements like multiple Sunshine State Conference titles, NCAA South Regional championships and national championships, he can also boast that the recent collective team GPA has been the highest of his tenure. Players also support their community, such as helping a Tampa nonprofit build baby cribs and provide furniture to military veterans.

Urso recruited pitcher David Lebron ’18 in 2016 as a junior with the offer of a scholarship. “I don’t take this for granted,” said Lebron. “A UT degree on your resume and internship opportunities make you stand out in a competitive job market.”

A criminology major, he wants to intern with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office. “My father inspired my love of baseball, and my mother inspires my work ethic,” said Lebron, whose father passed away when he was a teenager.

On-field, he has been honored as a Sunshine State Conference Pitcher of the Year and an American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings All-American. He credits Urso and supporters for creating a standard of excellence for the team.

It was this standard that caught the attention of donors Stu and Diane Williams. In 2017, they established an endowed scholarship to provide funds for a baseball student-athlete. Under NCAA Division II rules, baseball programs can have a maximum of nine scholarships. UT presently has seven.

“The University and baseball program align with our values,” said Diane Williams. “We have sons and know how team sports teach character and leadership skills. We value the development of young men who make a positive impact on society.”

Like the Williams family and others who support the team today, Urso fondly remembers the Tobin family’s support during his years attending UT. The Tobins supported the development that propelled Urso’s success.

Stu Williams ’70 recalls when his parents dropped him off at McKay Hall in 1966. He believes the culture of the University remains the same — small class sizes, one-on-one faculty support and a commitment to develop well-rounded students.

“Supporting endowments creates long-term stability,” said Stu Williams. “You can develop future leaders who have the character and ability to make a positive impact.”

This feature appeared in the Fall 2017 UT Journal. Read the full magazine.