The search committee for the new athletic director was looking for input from the campus when it scheduled an open meeting this week. But only seven people came to the forum billed as a chance to “express opinions regarding the desired qualities and experience to be considered in selecting candidates.”
Committee Chair Michael Eisenberg told attendees that the committee had been meeting for about a month and had already received 16 applications after posting the job description in the press. He said the committee expects to evaluate from 50 to 100 candidates before choosing the new director.
“We want to have the widest possible pool,” Eisenberg said, noting that the committee is currently interviewing search firms to assist in the process and should make a decision on that soon. He said the committee would take all applications seriously and would follow up with applicants.
Forum attendees were reluctant to offer many opinions, preferring to ask the committee questions. But several mentioned honesty and integrity as core values they hoped the new athletic director would hold.
“I want him to take an active interest in how the department is run,” said one. “The athletic director needs to have his finger on the pulse of what’s happening.”
Another expressed hope that the new director would have experience teaching, or at least an understanding that the athletic department is part of the University, and not a separate entity.
A third talked about the position of athletic teams other than football, saying he hoped the new director would want to support the secondary sports.
Eisenberg replied that at the UW, there is no distinction between so-called “major” and “secondary” sports. “Other universities have a tiered system but we don’t,” he said. “We expect the new athletic director will continue that.”
One attendee asked panel members if they were aware of efforts by faculty at other universities to bring about reform in athletic programs.
Committee member Ross Heath said this was a hot topic in intercollegiate athletics, summed up by the phrase “keeping the student in student athlete.” He said, “We believe that if the coach cares about the student athlete, that winning takes care of itself.”
Committee member Ron Crockett noted that UW athletes had an average GPA of 2.94 last quarter.
Asked if the committee thought its top candidates would be sitting athletic directors or assistant directors, Eisenberg said that although the new director could certainly come from such a position, he or she doesn’t necessarily have to have an athletic background. “It could be someone who comes from business,” he said.
This week’s meeting is not the only chance the committee has had to collect input on its work. Eisenberg said the group had already met with the Advisory Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics, with athletic department staff and with student athletes. He and other committee members said the message had been consistent over all the groups they had talked to: The new director should have integrity, be a leader, care about student athletes and be a good manager.
Eisenberg said there was no deadline for completion of the committee’s work. “We want to take the time to do a terrific job,” he said. “We want to be known as the committee that hired the best athletic director.”