By Jeffrey Waitkevich
Al Gentilini is the captain of the Campus Recreation ship, and he wants to do more than keep it afloat, he wants to sail it to the promised land.
As the associate director, Gentilini is in charge of the fitness center, the waterfront, the pool and The Edge. His vision is to make Campus Recreation the zenith of its class while competing with universities like Texas A&M and Ohio State.
Gentilini feels that USF St. Petersburg can be the role model for smaller, predominantly commuter schools.
One of his goals is to move the fitness center to The Edge to create a centralized campus recreation system.
“That way it’s easier for the students because they’re not bounced around,” said Gentilini.
On a larger scale, he wants to make campus recreation a focal point of the school. With all the numbers pointing to it positively affecting students — higher GPA’s and graduation rates correlating with campus recreation use — he hopes the emphasis makes the campus the best it can be.
Staying up to date on cutting-edge technology and getting student input are paramount to his plan.
Along with being the associate director, Gentilini is involved with USF St. Petersburg’s five-year planning, the Employee Wellness Committee and the Student Affairs Leadership team.
Long before coming to the university, Gentilini was an undergraduate student studying organizational communication at USF Tampa. He graduated in 1997 and received his master’s in college student counseling and personnel services in 2005.
Gentilini became the first in his family to graduate college.
“I’m a first-generation student, so my parents said, ‘if you want to go to school, you have to pay for it yourself,’ so I had to find ways to make money,” said Gentilini.
He spent summers working as the director of a youth camp in North Carolina and took two years off between his undergraduate and graduate schooling to work as a social worker.
In 2003, Gentilini returned to USF as a graduate assistant in intramural sports.
Over the next fourteen years, he worked his way up from graduate assistant, to coordinator of intramural sports, to coordinator of student-athlete development to assistant director. When the athletic director spot at USF St. Petersburg opened up in May, he jumped on it.
“Even though USFSP is part of the system, it has a different identity and culture, which is what brought me here,” said Gentilini. “The bigger university has its pros and cons; the higher up you go, the less day-to-day interaction you have with the students. And to me, in order to make those decisions you need to have your finger on the pulse, your feet on the ground and you have to learn from the students.”
For Fallon Hartig, competitive sports coordinator, Gentilini was an immediate influence.
“One of the things that he really wanted to do was get our identity out there a little bit better and established more,” she said. “We got new uniforms, we changed the logo up a little bit. I think, although it may seem small, it’s made a huge impact.”
Hartig has been part of USF St. Petersburg for over two years.
“When I first met him in his interview, he was very charismatic and he seemed genuine,” Hartig said. “And I was like ‘there’s no way this guy is this nice,’ but as I’ve gotten to know him, that’s who he is. He’s just a really great guy.”
Originally from New Jersey, Gentilini has lived most of his life in Riverview, Florida. Outside of work and campus recreation, he is the father of a 9-month-old.
While he doesn’t consider himself an “adventure junkie,” he has traveled to New Zealand and tried his hand at skydiving and hang gliding.
Moreover, he is one of an elite class of triathletes to complete an Ironman Triathlon, a race comprised of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a marathon 26.22 mile run back-to-back.
Gentilini credits his father for many significant lessons he’s learned in his life.
“My father worked hard. He puts his family, his team, before himself and I’ve taken that trait on. I care more about the person than I do the job,” said Gentilini.