Neill McGeachy, former director of intercollegiate athletics and executive director of the Piedmont Educational Foundation/Bears Club at Lenoir-Rhyne University, passed away early Friday morning at the age of 75.
"The Lenoir-Rhyne University community is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Neill McGeachy. Neill was a Lenoir-Rhyne icon and a beloved leader who was passionate about LR and our student-athletes," said Fred Whitt, president of the University. "He worked tirelessly to elevate the LR athletic program to one of national prominence, and was instrumental in its growth. LR is a better place because of Neill's extraordinary contributions both as a student-athlete and as an administrator. We ask that everyone keep Neill's family in their prayers during this very difficult time."
McGeachy's affinity for Lenoir-Rhyne began when he enrolled as a student; he was a 1965 graduate of the then Lenoir-Rhyne College. In 2002, he seized the opportunity to return to his alma mater and lead the athletics department. It was during his first year at LR that McGeachy was credited with more than doubling the football season attendance (13,958 to 28,625), which led all NCAA Division II institutions in the country in percentage of improvement that year.
Additionally, McGeachy renewed enthusiasm for LR football through his decision to reinstate night football games and create a pre-game festival environment that included sponsored corporate tents, college and community recognition events, as well as entertainment. He also implemented the PEF Bears Club Gala, the LR/Moretz Sports Championship Series, the Spring Raffle, and worked to expand radio broadcast sponsorships as well as affinity and corporate partnerships.
Under McGeachy's leadership, the number of student-athletes grew significantly, and eight sports were added to the LR athletics program. He was an active member of the Hickory community, becoming a popular speaker, and member – as well as past board director – of the Hickory Rotary Club. He also served as chair of the South Atlantic Conference (SAC) Athletic Director Council.
McGeachy's strong leadership and bold vision established a new level of athletic excellence during his 14-year tenure. During that time, the Bears jumped from seventh to second in the SAC Echols Athletic Excellence Award standings. With McGeachy at the helm, LR accumulated 61 NCAA Division II regional appearances, 38 SAC regular season championships, 38 All-Americans representing 11 sports, 15 NCAA Division II national championship qualifiers, 14 SAC tournament titles, 12 Academic All-Americans, 11 NCAA Division II regional hosts, three SAC Athletes of the Year, and one national coach of the year.
"Neill was truly one of a kind. It was a great privilege to have known him as a colleague and friend," stated Kim Pate, director of athletics. "He was a dynamic leader and established a culture of excellence for Lenoir-Rhyne athletics. His legacy and the impact he has had on the University, countless student-athletes, coaches, and the entire Bear Nation will be felt for many years to come."
Before joining the LR staff, McGeachy served as director of marketing with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Southern Section in Atlanta. Prior to the USTA, he served as founder and president of Sugar Creek Enterprises, Inc., a sports promotions company with offices in Winston-Salem and Charlotte, for 20 years.
McGeachy's knowledge and passion for sports stems from his own success as a student-athlete. While at LR, McGeachy was a three-sport standout for the Bears in football, basketball, and track. In 1987, he was inducted into the LR Sports Hall of Fame and the North Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2016, he was inducted into the Iredell County Sports Hall of Fame.
Born in Charlotte and raised in Statesville, McGeachy always maintained an affinity for North Carolina. McGeachy is survived by two grown children, a son and a daughter, and several grandchildren.
McGeachy retired from LR prior to the close of the 2015-16 academic year and was awarded an honorary degree from LR at May commencement. President Whitt has indicated all flags at LR will fly at half-staff in honor of McGeachy.