Seasoned Veteran Dr. Jerome Fitch Brings Collegiate Athletics Expertise to Allen University
Columbia, S.C. – Dr. Jerome Fitch’s career in collegiate athletics has spanned several decades, institutions and positions. Through them all, he has earned a reputation for leading many southeastern universities throughout transitions from the NAIA to the SIAC of the NCAA’s Division II.
Currently the athletic director at Allen University, Dr. Fitch previously retired in May of 2020 after 12 years at Claflin University in Orangeburg, SC. However, his retirement did not last long — only about two months to be exact.
“It was getting kind of boring every day,” Fitch says. “I retired as AD at Claflin in June, and in August I was here.”
After Fitch learned of Allen University’s incoming transition to the NCAA’s Division II from the NAIA, he spoke with Allen University President Ernest McNealey and offered to assist the Yellow Jackets.
“Dr. McNealey asked me to come out of retirement. I told him, ‘I’d like to offer my service to help you with this transition,’ and he took me up on it. I thought I’d be just a consultant. I didn’t know I was going to be the athletic director,” Fitch says.
Fitch brings more than 45 years of collegiate administration experience into his newest leadership role. Previously, Fitch has worked at Savannah State University, Alabama A&M University, Johnson C. Smith College, Livingstone College, the University of South Carolina, Voorhees College, Elizabeth City State University, and North Carolina Central College, his alma mater.
He worked briefly for the U.S. Department of the Interior as a federal game agent before transferring to a job corps program between earning a bachelor’s degree in physical education from North Carolina Central College and returning there to earn a Master of Education. Fitch also holds a Doctor of Education from South Carolina State University.
Through all of the roles Fitch has served — athletic director, director of compliance, assistant director of academic affairs, sports information director, assistant coach, and head basketball coach, to name a few — hehas learned a valuable lesson he believes everyone working in athletics must embrace.
“Athletics is a rewarding job,” Fitch says. “I don’t care what level you’re on. You’re there for the student. It’s a student-driven profession.”
Fitch adds that while a lot of work can go unrecognized in athletics, it is persistent, and it is a job where dedication is a mainstay.
And dedicated he has been.
Throughout his esteemed career, Fitch has worked with countless people and knows more about college athletics than perhaps most people could learn in a lifetime. He has overseen facility upgrades, helped eliminate debt in several HBCUs’ athletic budgets and even served as an assistant coach for one of the greatest players in NBA history.
“Sam Jones is among 50 of the NBA’s all-time greats. He played with the Boston Celtics. Bill Russell called him Mr. Clutch. He’s a graduate of North Carolina Central, and I was his assistant coach,” Fitch says.
However, his latest stop at Allen University stands out from the rest due to an extraordinary circumstance: a global pandemic. Part of an athletic director’s job entails ensuring the wellbeing of all student-athletes, and the pandemic has presented many challenges. Through it all, the tight-knit culture of Allen University, which Fitch says is the smallest school in terms of the number of student athletes he has served as athletic director for, is apparent every day.
Located just over a mile from the University of South Carolina and directly across the street from another HBCU in Benedict College, Allen University has held a prominent presence in the city of Columbia since it first opened its doors in its current Columbia location in 1880.
Working under athletic director Jerome Fitch, men’s basketball head coach Jason James is currently guiding his team through a season unlike any other due to the ongoing pandemic. James also serves as sports information director, which requires a wide range of tasks from him and makes every day on the job unique. In addition to Dr. Fitch and Coach James, Megan Sanger works in the Yellow Jackets athletic department as the Director of Compliance and Senior Woman Administrator. Toccara Tatum, an alumna of Ferrum College, is in her first year as the head coach of the Yellow Jackets women’s basketball team.
The Yellow Jackets athletic department embraces an open-door policy, and administrative assistant Quindra Richardson has an office right next door to Dr. Fitch. Each of the aforementioned athletics personnel and so many others make up the growing Yellow Jackets department.
Fitch also provided an interesting fact about himself: He shares a birthday — September 6 — with Sid Kenyon, his former Gamecocks athletics colleague. Kenyon is currently the general manager of Colonial Life Arena and a professor at the University of South Carolina’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management.
Fitch worked at Carolina from 1987 to 1994 and says many of his former colleagues are still with the Gamecocks. They include “Voice of Gamecock Football” Todd Ellis, associate athletics director of facilities and operations Jeff Davis, men’s soccer coach Mark Berson, and head track & field and cross country coach Curtis Frye.