By BRENDAN McGAIR
CRANSTON – The R.I. Interscholastic League officially has a Robin to go with the organization’s answer to the comic book hero Batman.
Tom Marcello — Ponaganset High athletic director and Bishop Hendricken graduate — is moving to the statewide level as the RIIL’s new assistant executive director.
The transaction was confirmed Tuesday at a special meeting of the Principals’ Committee on Athletics that physically took place at Cranston East High School, though several PCOA members participated via teleconference.
Marcello takes over the leadership position that was previously held by Mike Lunney, who this past February was appointed as the successor to executive director Tom Mezzanotte. Mezzanotte’s final day of his 16-year run as RIIL boss is Friday, July 31.
“This position has been on my mind ever since Tom announced that he would be retiring,” said Marcello while standing outside Cranston East. “To have the ability to impact student-athletes across the state rather than just in my school … it’s been a major topic of discussion in my household over the past eight months.”
As a former PCOA member from 2016-18 and past president of the R.I. Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, Marcello is familiar with the RIIL’s inner workings. Many of the realignment guidelines that have been adopted in recent years were the brainchild of his creation.
“I think I’ve made some great relationships and have a good perspective on what to expect in this job even though you never really know what you’re getting into until you take it,” said Marcello. “This is a tremendous opportunity and I think it’s going to be a great relationship for decades to come.”
Lunney said Marcello is right for the job.
“We had a number of fantastic candidates to choose from, but Tom’s involvement with the league has prepared him for this position. He has tremendous support among our principals. We’re excited to have him and everyone feels comfortable that he’ll be able to hit the ground running and get involved right away,” Lunney said.
In addition to his AD responsibilities, Marcello for many years served as head coach of Ponaganset’s football program — the 2009 Chieftains went undefeated during the regular season on their way to claiming the Division III Super Bowl.
All told, he spent 18 years at a school that’s tucked away in the northwest corner of the state. Along the way, he gained a valuable perspective that comes with being firmly in the trenches when it comes to interacting with student-athletes and coaches regardless of the season.
“I think perspective is everything,” he said. “You don’t know what everyone else is going through, but that’s why you have to understand the perspective of all the stakeholders before making decisions.
“Every day, I got to walk down the hallways [at Ponaganset] and got to see 500-600 smiling faces and have meaningful conversations and interactions with 250 people. I made tremendous friends while I was there … students and student-athletes who have become friends. Those relationships will never change, but it will be difficult not to see those people every day, especially my co-workers. The people at Ponaganset are all about the kids.”
Marcello joins the Interscholastic League at a time when the probability of high school sports is being shaped around whether it’s feasible or not from a health and safety standpoint.
“It’s an unprecedented time that calls for great leadership,” said Marcello. “We’re just trying to build on a solid foundation that’s already in place … make decisions at the right time that benefit the member schools.”
When the news concerning Marcello broke, many involved in R.I. interscholastic sports took to social media to express congratulations.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03