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Valentine ready to try hand in college athletics

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FAIRFIELD, Conn. >> It didn’t take long for Bobby Valentine to move past his year to forget in Boston. Of course, there was a new challenge to help him along the way.

Some five months after being fired as manager of the Red Sox, Valentine was introduced Tuesday as the new athletic director of Sacred Heart University.

Valentine, a Connecticut native who lasted just one season with Boston, will take over a program that competes in the Northeast Conference and has 31 teams, including baseball.

“I don’t look back,” Valentine said, as he flashed his traditional array of smiles. “I don’t do that stuff. Maybe one bike ride and I said ‘Oh, darn’. Maybe, I don’t know. It wasn’t my first rodeo. It wasn’t the first time I was fired and it probably won’t be the last time.”

The high-profile hiring by the Pioneers brought a packed crowd to his press conference at University Commons. Approximately 300 people attended, including several athletes.

Valentine, 62, who agreed to the position last week with Sacred Heart, led the Red Sox to a 69-93 record, and was fired with a year remaining on his contract.

“It wasn’t the biggest challenge of my life; it wasn’t the most exciting challenge of my life,” he said of Boston. “It was just one of those things.”

As is his new post, which doesn’t begin officially until July 1.In the meantime, he will work as a baseball analyst on NBC Sports Radio.

The school reached out to Valentine after announcing the retirement of longtime athletic director Don Cook in November. Valentine has made numerous speaking and fund-raising appearances for the school, and became a candidate a month later.

“I do things that are presented to me so that I can be challenged and I can strive for excellence,” Valentine said. “This is a great, challenging position.”

The Pioneers have 17 teams for women, and 14 for men. They upgraded their varsity programs to NCAA Division I status in September 1999. And the school’s baseball team has made consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament.

Valentine’s new position does not mean, though, that he will resist future managing opportunities. There’s always a chance to return to the dugout.

“If some team calls, I always answer the phone,” Valentine said. “That doesn’t mean that I’m going to rush to judgment and run away from a situation that I think is a very good situation.”

For now, he’s concerned with getting acclimated to his new role with the Pioneers.

“I’ve had a lot of contracts in my life,” Valentine said. “I had a lifetime contract once in Japan and I found out it was the lifetime of the owner’s dog. I don’t deal with a whole bunch of things that we have to deal with in the future, I deal with today and I’m very excited at what I’m doing today.”

Valentine never seemed to click with the players in Boston, and the Red Sox suffered through a season of injury along the way. In the end, it was ugly. They shed payroll, traded away several marquee players, and lost their final eight games.

The Red Sox — in camp now at Fort Myers, Fla., with new manager John Farrell — seemed unfazed that their former manager had changed careers. When asked his thoughts about Sacred Heart’s decision to hire Valentine, designated hitter David Ortiz was short and sweet last week.

“Good,” he said. “Good for him.”

“It’s six months of a 62-year life,” Valentine said of his tenure with Boston. “It’s six months in a 42-year career in baseball. It’s a blip, a little spot on the radar as far as I’m concerned and I thought I did a (good) job in Boston. I thought what had to be done there, had to be done except for winning a pennant. But Connie Mack wouldn’t have won with that team.”

Valentine also managed the Texas Rangers from 1985-92 and the Mets from 1996-02, leading New York to the 2000 World Series. After managing in Japan, he joined ESPN as an analyst.

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