Freire meets with athletic staff, introduced as inspirational leader

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Staff Report
The Carolinian

Julio Freire was not officially introduced as University of South Carolina Upstate Athletic Director when he already met with the athletic department Thursday morning.

He then held an impromptu press conference with The Carolinian staff where he described growing up in “Tijuana, Mexico where I lived in a two bedroom trailer with seven people.

“I became an American citizen by age 14 and consider myself lucky that I excelled in athletics and was able to obtain an education,” Freire said. “I was attending a high school where only 50 percent of the freshmen made it to graduation – an inner city school. So, because of Intercollegiate athletics (cross country and track at Arizona State), I had the opportunity to earn an education – to earn a degree.”

Chancellor Dr. Brendan B. Kelly introduced Freire in the G.B. Hodge Center as someone who “captures the spirit of who we are trying to be in Spartan athletics.”

Freire will also serve as vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletes. He was hired on Monday, moved into retiring athletic director Lee Fowler’s office and Freire begins his job officially on Aug. 3.

Kelly said he expects Freire will “help take us where I am absolutely certain we are going.” Kelly described Freire as an inspirational leader.

“My priorities are God and family first, then education and athletics second,” Freire said.

“Everything that we do within the department will be about outcomes – measured outcomes,” Freire said. “And within intercollegiate athletics, the number one outcome is always a student-athlete’s experience.

Kelly has said his agenda includes fundraising and sponsorships. That matches up with what Freire told those attending his welcoming.

“My goals are fundraising and corporate sponsorship,” Freire said. “The number one fundraising tool is relationships, relationships, relationships. I want to create meaningful opportunities for engagement.”

Freire said he embraces diversity. “We are recruiting diversity, but not based on how (people) look or their gender,” Friere said. “We will always hire the best people.”

Freire said he met with Kelly three times before visiting the campus. Faculty and staff met with Friere and filled out a questionnaire from Kelly.

“Upstate attracted me for two main reasons – the people and the tremendous opportunity. We’re turning a new page after 50 years,” Freire said.

“The Upstate region and USC Upstate are at a tipping point,” Freire said. “As the only public comprehensive university in the area, we, the University of South Carolina Upstate, are the only university that can propel the entire region to the next level.”

Freire graduated Arizona State (1990) with a degree in education and earned a master’s degree in counseling from the University of Phoenix in 1997.

Freire was a high school educator and coach. He was in athletics administration, joined Ohio University in 2000, Tennessee Tech 2005-2007, University of Arizona 2007-2010, University of Las Vegas Nevada 2010-2013, and then athletic director at the University of Tennessee-Martin.

Freire joined the University of Pittsburgh in 2016 as deputy athletic director under AD Scott Barnes. Freire stepped down April 14 after Barnes left Pitt for the same position at Oregon State.

Freire was joined at the introduction by his wife, Cherie, and their children, Christopher, 15, and Gabriella, 12.


The Carolinian staff enjoyed an exclusive press conference with Julio Freire. Check out Courtney White’s broadcast, below.