While leaving this role, Shirley will remain head coach of the women’s basketball team.
Tom Shirley, the assistant vice president for athletics at Thomas Jefferson University, announced this week that he will be stepping down as athletic director, effective August 2024. However, he will remain on as head coach of the Rams women’s basketball team.
Dr. Susan Aldridge, the University’s interim president, proudly shared that Shirley’s impact goes beyond athletics. Under his leadership, the Rams have earned the NCAA Division II President’s Award for Academic Excellence in 11 of 12 years, achieving a four-year academic success rate of 90% or higher in those years, which means that the student-athletes graduated within six years of original enrollment.
“Coach Shirley’s remarkably successful career has not only been on the courts or the fields. He has influenced generations of students who perform exceptionally well in class and in athletics,” she says. “Coach Shirley leaves a legacy of coaches and students who have benefitted from his expertise. We’ll miss his leadership across all Jefferson athletic teams, but we’re incredibly happy that he will continue to coach our women’s basketball team.”
Shirley started at the school in 1989 as the associate director of athletics and head women’s basketball coach after an eight-year stint as the director of athletics and head women’s basketball coach at DeSales University, his alma mater. In January 1992, Shirley was promoted to director of athletics, succeeding H.R. Ted Taylor.
On July 1, 2017, Philadelphia University integrated with Thomas Jefferson University, with Shirley navigating the athletic department through the transition.
“I have witnessed ‘the three names’ of the University during my career to date. Each one brought a different vantage point and a different mode of operation, but all three brought fulfillment and satisfaction,” Shirley says. “The common denominator was always the student-athletes and what an outstanding group they have been.”
Coupled with the transition to Jefferson, Shirley created the current landscape of Jefferson Athletics with the addition of women’s volleyball in 1997, men’s and women’s cross country in 2005, women’s rowing in 2006, men’s and women’s track and field in 2012, and women’s golf in 2016.
In 2019-20, Shirley helped elevate the head coaching positions of men’s and women’s cross country/track and men’s and women’s tennis to full-time status, giving 11 of the Rams’ 17 sports full-time coverage and increasing the number of full-time staff to 16. He then guided Jefferson Athletics through the COVID-19 pandemic, with 12 of the Rams’ 17 sports able to compete during the 2020-21 academic year.
In the time since the school joined the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference in 2005, the Rams have won 43 conference titles, including an unprecedented six during the 2008-09 season.
Shirley also established in 2008 the Kathleen & Thomas R. Shirley, Sr. Scholarship—which is need-based and earmarked for a resident of Roxborough, Manayunk or East Falls as the first-choice recipient—in memory of his parents. The scholarship has raised more than $403,000.
My best wishes go out to my successor and know that you will have my steadfast support. –Tom Shirley
As he begins his 34th season as head coach of the women’s basketball program, Shirley is one of the most successful coaches in the history of the women’s game. He enters the 2023-24 campaign with 849 victories, tops among active Division II coaches and 42nd overall in the college ranks.
In his 33 seasons at the University, the Rams have won at least 20 games 25 times. In 2022-23, Jefferson advanced to the NCAA East Region Final (Sweet 16) for the first time since 1986 and closed the year with a 28-5 record.
“While I will pass the torch as director of athletics, I am extremely excited to continue at the University as the head coach for women’s basketball,” he says. “It’s been a terrific experience. If I was able to do it again, I would do it at the same institution, in the same career. I had the opportunity to do something I thoroughly enjoyed.”
Thanking former and current student-athletes, University administration and department colleagues for all their support and quality work through the years, he also looked toward the future.
“My best wishes go out to my successor and know that you will have my steadfast support,” Shirley says.