Courtesy of Potsdam Sports Information Department
Potsdam's Director of Athletics Jim Zalacca will be honored by the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) with the organization's Retiree Award at the annual awards banquet in Syracuse in May. Zalacca announced his retirement, effective September 1, back in October. The SUNYAC Retiree Award is presented annually to individuals who coached or were in administration for 15 years or more.
Zalacca's career in college sports spans nearly 40 years, beginning at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. as assistant basketball coach in 1980. He then ascended to his first administrative post as director of athletics and men's head basketball coach at Bethany College (W.Va.). From 1990-93, Zalacca served as athletic director at Castleton University (Vt.). He first entered the State University of New York Athletic Conference in 1993 as director of athletics at SUNY New Paltz, where he guided the Hawks for seven seasons.
Zalacca assumed the helm of Bears Athletics prior to the 2000-01 campaign and is currently the longest serving SUNYAC athletic director and second longest in Potsdam history. Athletically, Zalacca's tenure at Potsdam has seen three team SUNYAC titles, nine individual SUNYAC titles, one NCAA Championship, two NCAA Tournament appearances and Bears men's basketball advance to the Elite Eight. Potsdam has also produced 11 All-Americans, 238 all-conference selections as well as multiple professional athletes. While dedicated to the entire student-athlete experience, Bears student-athletes have also earned numerous academic honors during his tenure, consistently outperforming their non-athlete counterparts. During the 2016-17 season, one third of all Potsdam athletes earned grade-point-averages of 3.3 or higher and participated in countless forms of community service projects.
In his time at Potsdam, Zalacca has overseen approximately $25 million in improvements to the College's sports facilities. They include the construction and later upgrading of the artificial turf stadium, which was the first of its kind in the SUNYAC and North Country, and the renovations of Maxcy's ice arena, field house, natatorium and Shane T. Shaul Fitness Center. Aligning with the College's military-friendly policies, Zalacca instituted the fitness center's program of giving free passes to active duty service members and veterans. The athletic department has also expanded participation opportunities for athletes with the addition of women's ice hockey and men's and women's indoor and outdoor track and field programs and the elevation of softball from club to varsity status. In 2008, Zalacca and Potsdam teamed up with the Olympic Regional Development Authority to host the NCAA Division III Men's Ice Hockey Championship at Lake Placid. It marked the first time in the tournament's history that the championship was held at an off-campus site. Early in his tenure, Zalacca was responsible in selecting and implementing new branding for the athletic department, the very recognizable ferocious bear over the mountain logo.
During his career, Zalacca also served in many other roles on campus and off. He was a member of the prestigious NCAA Men's Basketball Rules Committee from 1999-2002 and again from 2010-14. Zalacca was one of three representatives on the committee from Division III institutions and earned the National Association of Basketball Coaches' "Guardians of the Game" award for his work. Zalacca was also a member of the NCAA Division III Men's Lacrosse Committee from 2001-05, serving as chair for the last two seasons. He was the SUNYAC President for the 2000-01 academic year and a member of the ECAC Executive Council from 2000-03. Zalacca has chaired the ECAC Men's Basketball Upstate Region Selection Committee, the ECAC Baseball Selection Committee and the ECAC Lacrosse Selection Committee as well as participating in many other organizations. Since coming to Potsdam, he has chaired the Bears Hall of Fame Committee. Of the hall's 138 members, 52 individuals and teams have been enshrined under his oversight.
Zalacca was recognized by his high school alma mater, Notre Dame High School (Batavia, N.Y.), last November when he was inducted into its hall of fame for his basketball playing prowess. He began his coaching career there as assistant basketball coach in 1974. Zalacca earned his bachelor's degree in physical education from the College at Brockport in 1976 and his master's in physical education and sport management from DePauw University in 1982.