Chances are that if you ask a Fairfield University student if they know who Ethan Godfrey is, he or she will say yes. His name pops up in the inboxes of more than 1,000 students each year. 

The majority know him as the program coordinator of competitive sports on campus. A growing number of student referees, scorekeepers and supervisors know him as the boss who never forgets to celebrate a birthday. Some know him as a colleague to bounce ideas off of—a real go-getter. Many know him as a friend, someone they can always count on. A handful know him as a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan. 

But only a lucky few really see him. The eager eighteen-year-old boy who watches in excitement behind the 28-year-old eyes. The one who lives out his dream day after day on Fairfield’s campus—combining his two loves of bringing people together and sports to make a difference. 

Intramural sports bring the school together. It’s one of those few programs that anybody and everybody can participate in.

Garret Nelson ’24, Head Supervisor of Intramural Sports

Godfrey grew up in New Haven, Conn. with his two parents and younger brother. 

His first love was sports, which he discovered when his parents signed him up to play baseball at four years old. By the time Godfrey was old enough to watch television, he was cheering on the Boston Red Sox and shouting at players as if they could hear him, next to his dad. 

Throughout middle school and high school, he collected baseball cards of all his favorite players.  

In 2004, when he was nine years old and the Red Sox had just won the World Series, Godfrey  set his sights on becoming the team’s manager one day.

His dad coached his baseball team for years. Although his dad never showed him any favoritism, it was nice knowing that he was there. 

Godfrey heard stories of his dad playing baseball, soccer and rugby growing up, which inspired him to branch out more himself. He signed up to play football and threw javelin for his high school and college track teams. 

When he was eighteen years old, Godfrey moved away from home for the first time to study business management and sports marketing at Nichols College in Dudley, Mass. This was the first time he had left his hometown and he didn’t know anyone on the campus. 

Heading into his first week as a freshman, Godfrey remembered his family’s advice. 

“My older cousins were always telling me, ‘You got to play intramurals. It’s so much fun and that’s how you meet your lifelong friends,’” he said. 

Although he once dreamt of becoming a professional baseball player, Godfrey’s skills weren’t quite up to the college-division level. He knew that Nichols’ intramural sports program would be his best bet, leading him to quickly realize how limited it was. 

The program only offered softball and basketball. There was no baseball. 

Godfrey struggled with this news. He spent a lot of time in his dorm room and quickly found himself back inside his shell—a shell that he hadn’t been inside since he met his first teammates at four years old. 

He had always considered himself to be an extrovert but it wasn’t until this point that he realized the gravity of sports’ role in his life and how it led him to form deep connections. 

“Trying to find that group, that’s what was really tough,” Godfrey said, thinking back to his first couple of months at Nichols.

As weeks passed, he decided it was time to step up to the plate. He had been a team player for years. Now was the time to be a leader. 

“Once I grew up and realized, ‘Hey, I can start something here. I can provide programming for students that are in the same boat as me,’ that’s when I really took off,” he said. 

He sat down with the director of student involvement and asked to take over and expand the intramural program at Nichols. To his surprise, the answer was yes.

Godfrey quickly got to work with the program. He added wiffle ball, flag football and ultimate frisbee. 

As other first-year students focused on joining programs, he focused on managing one. He created game schedules using Microsoft Excel and emailed it out to players each week. 

The more programs he created, the more students became interested. Soon, one third of the entire school was playing intramural sports under his leadership. Over 400 of his peers signed up to play out of about 1,200 students. 

As he had hoped, Godfrey formed lifelong friendships. He met his best friend, Aaron Lieske, through the wiffle ball program and soon went on to meet Lieske’s friends. The group roomed together for the next three years and is still close today. 

This June, Godfrey was a groomsman in Lieske’s wedding. 

“It was an easy choice to pick Ethan,” said Lieske. 

“I would have picked him to be my best man if I didn’t have to go with the bloodline,” he said with a laugh.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screenshot-2023-12-22-at-9.05.18%E2%80%AFAM-1024x724.png
Pictured above is Ethan (far left) with Aaron Lieske (fourth one in from the left) on Lieske’s wedding day in June 2022

As a college student, Godfrey saw how his work with the intramural program brought students from all different backgrounds together. Lieske was an accounting and finance double major who he never would’ve crossed paths with. 

Thus formed his second love: bringing people together. 

Once Godfrey graduated from Nichols in 2017, he began his job hunt. He didn’t know where he would end up, but he knew one thing: he would follow his heart and take a path that combined his two loves. 

It really gets across that Ethan cares as much about the students playing and participating as he would if it were himself. I wish I could say I instilled that in him, but he brought so much of it himself. It was infectious.

John Paladino, Godfrey’s first boss at Fairfield

When his dad, Scott Godfrey, shared a job posting at Fairfield for coordinator of intramural sports, he jumped at the opportunity. 

“From the very beginning, I could always see something in him—that he had to do something sports-wise,” said Scott. 

Godfrey showed up for his interview prepared with knowledge of the program and ideas to help it grow—just as he had worked to do at Nichols. 

“When he walked in the door, he gave the impression that this was the only thing he wanted to do that day,” said John Paladino, Godfrey’s first boss at Fairfield. “He talked about things that hadn’t even crossed my mind.” 

Godfrey immediately got the job and hit the ground running. 

He began collecting statistics, creating positions for more students to get involved as not only players, but also referees, scorekeepers and supervisors. He created surveys to send out to students and collect feedback, and did all of this with an aim to bring people together. 

“When Ethan came in, he came up with 1,001 new ideas for the program,” said Paladino. 

“It really gets across that Ethan cares as much about the students playing and participating as he would if it were himself. I wish I could say I instilled that in him, but he brought so much of it himself. It was infectious,” he said.

Nearly seven years later, Godfrey continues to impact students and staff with his bright smile and personality. 

Fairfield senior Garret Nelson had a similar first-year college experience to Godfrey. The Covid-19 pandemic left Nelson trapped in a dorm room, eager to get out and make new friends.

Nelson grew up playing baseball since he was five years old. When he saw a student job posting for intramural referees, he applied right away. Soon, Godfrey hired him as a scorekeeper. 

“At the end of the day, he’s just a genuinely good person that cares about his staff and the program,” said Nelson. “He tries to ensure that everybody has the best experience possible, even at the cost of sleep and stress.”

Godfrey wants to continue increasing participation rates. The 2022-23 intramural season was “another record-breaking” year with 5,824 participants and 659 teams created, he shared. 

“Intramural sports bring the school together. It’s one of those few programs that anybody and everybody can participate in,” said Nelson.

At the end of the day, Godfrey said it all comes back to making the students happy. His goal is to encourage and include as many of them as possible in an uplifting program that will lead to meaningful friendships.

“The toughest thing that we’ve encountered, that I absolutely hate, is having to cap the amount of teams that sign up,” said Godfrey. “It breaks my heart when I see we have a 20-team cap and there’s 13 teams on the waitlist.”

He added a new pickleball league this year to include more students. 

“Watching everyone play, laughing and having a good time—that’s the most rewarding part of my job,” he said. 

For now, Godfrey looks forward to continuing his work on expanding the program. He’s happy at Fairfield and looks forward to more fulfilling years here. 

Godfrey has touched the lives of many, whether as a son, friend, colleague or boss. He sits in his office in room 111 at Fairfield’s RecPlex with his door open each day, eager to talk to anyone passing by.

“He’s not going to change for anybody else. He is who he is,” said Lieske. “You can either learn to love him or not. But I definitely suggest learning to love him.”

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