Limestone's Mike Cerino Named Executive Director Of Major Gifts

Charles Wyatt
Mike Cerino - Richardson

Limestone’s fundraising efforts are anticipating similar success that its athletics department enjoyed under the leadership of Michael H. Cerino who has transitioned into a new role with the University.

Cerino, who served for 15 years as Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics, has stepped away from that role to fill Limestone’s newly created position of Executive Director of Major Gifts. Hailey Martin, Limestone’s former Senior Woman Administrator/Assistant Athletic Director for Diversity, Inclusion & Community Engagement, has been elevated to Cerino’s former position.

“On behalf of all of Saints Nation, I want to thank Mike Cerino for the tremendous role that he has played in the success of our athletics department and in helping our student-athletes achieve unparalleled successes, both athletically and academically,” noted Limestone’s Interim President Dr. Monica Baloga. “In this new role of Executive Director for Major Gifts, he will put his tremendous skill set to work for our entire university during this critical time when higher education faces many challenges. Mike is a proven leader and team-builder who has been instrumental in fundraising efforts in the past for our athletics department. The wealth of positive relationships he has built through the years will be tremendously beneficial as Limestone looks to grow and prosper as a whole.”

The Executive Director of Major Gifts, which reports directly to the Limestone President and works closely with the Board of Trustees, develops and implements strategies for securing financial support from a portfolio of donors and prospects including identifying, qualifying, cultivating, soliciting, and stewarding major gifts for the university from organizations, private foundations, businesses, corporations, alumni, and friends, while matching the University’s projects and needs with donor interests

Cerino became the fifth Director of Athletics in the history of Limestone in the fall of 2008, and later added the title of Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics in 2011 to better reflect the broad spectrum of his responsibilities.

“It has been a privilege for me to be a part of Limestone Athletics for a total of 27 years, both as the Athletics Director and as a coach,” Cerino said. “Words cannot begin to express how extremely grateful I am to have been able to work with, and mentor, so many incredible people while serving our amazing student-athletes. I am beyond excited to begin this new chapter to benefit a place that I love so dearly.”

With Cerino at the helm, Limestone’s athletics department benefitted from over $12 million that was raised for new and improved facilities.

“What Mike Cerino accomplished leading our athletics department is remarkable and his legacy especially on the lacrosse field will never be forgotten,” said Limestone Board of Trustees Chair David Riggins. “We are extremely excited that Mike is stepping into this new position that will take Limestone to the next level in its strategic fundraising efforts.”

The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) selected Cerino as the 2018-19 Under Armour NCAA Division II Athletics Director of the Year in March of 2019. The year before, he was named the recipient of the intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association’s Extra Man Award that is given annually to the college or university administrator who displays the highest level of support for growth of the sport of men’s lacrosse.

Under Cerino’s leadership, Limestone emerged as one of the most competitive athletics departments in NCAA Division II. During his tenure, the University’s athletics underwent a dynamic transformation that included the addition of several new sports and vast improvements and expansion of athletic facilities through strategic fundraising efforts. He oversaw a department grew to include over 800 student-athletes competing for 25 different teams.

Cerino, who previously sat on the NCAA Division II Management Council, took a leadership role in facility development through fundraising. In recent years, Limestone has completed the construction of the Bob Prevatte Athletic Complex made possible through a $4.1 million donation from former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, which is the largest gift in the University’s history. Cerino was instrumental in obtaining the funding for the construction of a 23,000-square-foot Bob Campbell Field House, Shannon Hamrick Park, and the Cunning Family Victory Bell Tower. Other facility improvements have included the revamped the Dave and Nancy Rilling Hall of Fame Room, the complete renovation of the Founders Federal Credit Union Stadium for baseball, and a new artificial turf surface and lightning for Saints Field.

The Bob Prevatte Athletic Complex project provided permanent seating at Saints Field, a press box, a turf practice field, campus connector walkways, community gathering spots, and a statue of Prevatte, the legendary Gaffney High School football coach and Cherokee County educator.

Cerino led Limestone through its transition to a new conference home with the South Atlantic Conference. The Saints were associate members in football beginning in 2016 and became full members on in July of 2020.   

He also oversaw the innovative partnership between Limestone and the National Center for Performance Health to implement GameChanger, a program that confidentially assists with mental health issues impacting academic/athletic performance, relationships, and overall happiness.  

While still members of Conference Carolinas, Limestone captured four straight Joby Hawn Cups, an award given to the top overall athletics department in the league, and five in a six-year span. In addition to bringing home the overall Job Hawn Cup Championship in 2016-17, the Saints also swept both the men’s and women’s trophy for the first time in department history that season.

During his tenure, Limestone won three NCAA Division II Men’s Lacrosse National Championships and four individual national titles in swimming, men’s indoor track & field, and men’s wrestling. The Saints’ acrobatics and tumbling team captured the pyramid event open heat National Championship last year, marking the first-ever women’s national title for the University.

In addition to overseeing the athletics department, Cerino enjoyed a 15-year tenure as the head coach of Limestone’s highly successful men’s lacrosse program. Building the program from scratch in 1989, he guided the Saints to their first NCAA Division II National Championship in 2000. Cerino is the second all-time winningest coach in program history and finished his coaching career at Limestone with an overall record of 128-66.

During his coaching career, he guided two elite programs, Limestone College and Washington and Lee University, to seven NCAA Tournament appearances and compiled an overall collegiate record of 181-90 (.668) over 20 seasons, winning a total of eight conference championships in the process.

Cerino was inducted in the Pfeiffer University Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010 for his contributions as a student-athlete. He has been inducted twice in the Limestone Athletics Hall of Fame, including the Class of 2004 as a head coach and again in the Class of 2011 as the coach of the team that won the 2000 National Championship Men’s Lacrosse Team. He was inducted into the United States Lacrosse South Carolina Chapter Hall of Fame in 2013 for his efforts in bringing and growing the sport of lacrosse in the state.

In addition to numerous coaching honors, Cerino earned Street & Smith’s Division II Coach of the Year honors and was a three-time recipient of the Jim “Ace” Adams National Sportsmanship Award presented by the National Intercollegiate Lacrosse Officials.

He previously serves as a head coach and then general manager of the Charlotte Hounds of Major League Lacrosse. Cerino guided the franchise to the 2013 MLL Championship Game in the team’s second year of existence.