Bill Maher, a graduate of Canisius College, is now in his 11th year as director of athletics at his alma mater. Maher officially took over the athletic department at Canisius on July 1, 2005 after spending seven years in various athletic administration roles at the University at Buffalo, serving as the Bulls’ Interim Athletic Director from 2003-05.
Since Maher took over at Canisius, the 20 varsity athletic programs have won 39 conference or regional championships, with a number of teams producing the best seasons in program history. A total of 54 student-athletes have won conference player or rookie of the year awards, including at least six in each of the past five seasons. Prior to Maher’s arrival, Canisius won 24 player or rookie of the year awards in the previous 10 seasons combined. Canisius has claimed the Battle of the Bridge and won the Canal Cup in seven of the last eight seasons (including four straight), which is an all-sports competition with rival Niagara University.
A total of three former Canisius student-athletes have been tabbed as the MAAC Student-Athlete of the Year during Maher’s tenure, highlighted by former baseball standout Connor Panas. Panas, who graduated from the College in May 2015, became just the third male in league history to win the conference’s student-athlete of the year award in back-to-back seasons after he was honored following the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.
Twenty Golden Griffins that have been drafted professionally since 2005 – seven men’s lacrosse players and 13 baseball players – while former Canisius pitcher John Axford is currently on the Colorado Rockies’ roster. Two hockey players have signed NHL contracts, including Cory Conacher, who was named the 2011-12 American Hockey League Rookie of the Year. In the spring of 2015, former Canisius men’s soccer player Asani Samuels, the school’s first three-time all-region honoree, became the first former Griff to sign a professional contract when he joined the Rochester Rhinos of the USL.
Canisius has added five varsity sports in the last four years, starting with the addition of women’s rowing in 2011-12. Canisius also added indoor and outdoor track for men and women during the 2013-14 athletic calendar.
During Maher’s tenure, the Canisius athletic facilities have undergone a number of renovations and branding initiatives. In 2007, the College opened the Center for Athletic Training; a facility is widely regarded as the premier on-campus athletic training facility in the MAAC. New locker rooms were constructed for all female teams and finished in 2008 while the men and women's basketball teams each moved to new locker rooms in the summer of 2009. The Demske Sports Complex received a $1.7 million facelift with the installation of new A-Turf as well as new scoreboards in 2008. New offices for head coaches and their assistants, along with new locker rooms for all of the men's teams were constructed in 2010.
Maher played an integral role in helping the school’s hockey program make the move to a permanent home at HARBORCENTER, a $172 million dollar hockey-based mix-use facility located directly across the street from First Niagara Center, the home of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.
In March 2015, Canisius announced that the College’s athletic department and communications studies programs have entered into a new agreement with ESPN, under which its students will produce live Canisius athletic events for ESPN3. This new athletic and academic collaboration will provide students with hands-on learning experiences in live video production, while also helping broaden the reach and visibility for Golden Griffin athletics. To help facilitate this new partnership and to produce events for ESPN3, Canisius has built a state-of-the-art Golden Griffin Sports Broadcast Center on the first floor of the College’s Science Hall building. The control room will feature top-of-the-line video production and audio equipment and will also serve as a classroom for the students in the Sports Broadcast Journalism class and other video production classes.
GoGriffs.com, the official web site of Canisius athletics, has undergone three redesigns under Maher. The department has also developed a high-quality video webstreaming package for all home events in seven sports (men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball and men’s and women’s lacrosse) and is a part of the MAAC.TV package. Additionally, the Canisius athletic department has been on the leading front in providing its fans and alumni with information thanks to an expansive social media network.
Maher is the MAAC's representative to the NCAA Council, which has one representative from each of the 31 Division I conferences. He chairs the MAAC men’s lacrosse committee and the MAAC Technology Committee. Canisius has hosted 15 MAAC Championships since 2005 and will once again serve as the host for the 2016 MAAC Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships. Additionally, Maher has served as the Tournament Director when Canisius has co-hosted the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament with the MAAC and Niagara University on three previous occasions (2007, 2010 and 2014) and Buffalo will serve as a host site for the first and second rounds of the 2017 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament next March in First Niagara Center.
Thirteen Golden Griffin teams have played in the NCAA Tournament during Maher’s tenure, with the baseball team earning its second trip to the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship in three seasons after the Blue and Gold won the league’s title in 2015. The school’s women’s lacrosse program has become one of the MAAC’s most dominant programs, earning three-straight NCAA Championship appearances from 2012-14 to go with back-to-back MAAC regular-season crowns in 2014 and 2015. The men’s lacrosse program has won two MAAC Championships (2008 and 2012) to go along with regular-season titles 2006 and 2008.
The Canisius athletic department had one of, if not the most successful year in school history during the 2012-13 athletic campaign. Canisius became the first Division I school in Western New York to send three teams to the NCAA Tournament in the same athletic year, won four conference titles and had four teams experience postseason play, as the men’s basketball program made its first postseason appearance since 1996. Since 2012-13, the men’s basketball program has made three appearances in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT), earning a trip to the quarterfinal round of the event in 2013 and 2015. The Griffs’ 59 wins on the hardwood are the second-most of any MAAC school since the start of the 2012-13 campaign.
In addition to all of the success in the athletic venue, the Golden Griffins have achieved numerous academic honors on the regional and national level as well. During Maher’s tenure, Canisius has had 27 student-athletes recognized on the district level as CoSIDA Capital One All-Academic selections, including 10 Capital One Academic All-Americans during the last six years. Five programs earned a NCAA Public Recognition Award for the four-year period ending in 2013-14. Nineteen teams had a grade point average of 3.0 or higher during the 2014-15 academic year, with 75 percent of student-athletes recording a GPA of 3.0 or better.
At Canisius, Maher has helped rebrand and build the school’s Blue & Gold Fund, the primary fundraising arm for the athletic department. Canisius has increased Blue & Gold Fund support by 21 percent over the most recent six years and realized a net increase of 25 percent in donor participation. Annual contributions for the Blue & Gold Fund now total more than $375,000 annually.
Maher spent seven years at the University at Buffalo and served as the Bulls' interim athletic director from 2003-05. During his tenure as the interim athletic director at Buffalo, Maher helped UB Athletics oversee $3.6 million in capital improvements to its athletic facilities, restructure the school's Blue & White Club fund drive for athletics, which generated $1 million during the 2003-04 season, and develop marketing campaigns which increased attendance at athletic events.
He also oversaw the development of Buffalo’s men's basketball program, which set a school record for victories and earned the first postseason bid in school history with an invitation to the 2005 NIT. Under his watch, the Bulls' RPI increased from 284 in 2003 to as high as 34 during the 2004-05 season.
Maher was a four-year letterwinner on the Canisius College football team from 1985-88 and earned All-America honorable mention honors as a senior. He received his bachelor's degree in physical education from Canisius in 1989 and his master's degree in sport management from East Stroudsburg University in 1990. Following an internship with the New York Knicks, Maher returned to Canisius in 1991, becoming the assistant athletic director for compliance in 1994.
He became the director of compliance at the University at Buffalo in 1998, where he moved up the ranks and was named senior associate athletic director in 2002. In that role, he managed the day-to-day operations of the Division of Athletics, including the direct supervision of Buffalo's football and men's and women's basketball programs, in addition to the office of compliance and the office of student-athlete services.
Maher, a native of Avon, N.Y., currently resides in East Amherst with his wife, Kristin, and sons, Danny and David.