DHR International In Hunt for Athletic Director at University of Pittsburgh

The margin for error in college athletics searches is razor thin. Recruiters bring speed & discretion and provide protection and plausible deniability. Let's go inside the highly competitive world of university sports recruiting.

February 13, 2017 – Universities continue to turn to search firms to find athletic leadership. DHR is the latest recruiting outfit to be retained to fill an AD role: this time for the University of Pittsburgh. Glenn Sugiyama, DHR’s managing partner and global sports practice leader, is heading the assignment along with partner Pat Richter who spearheads the firm’s specialized sports practice group.

The school’s chancellor Patrick Gallagher has tapped Randy Juhl to lead the search committee. Mr. Juhl served as interim athletic director two years ago.

“Randy is widely respected, both personally and professionally,” said Mr. Gallagher. “He has been a tremendous asset in our past searches and his experience will be invaluable as we identify outstanding candidates to be our next athletic director.”

The Right Candidate

“The University of Pittsburgh is seeking an athletic director who places the academic and athletic success of each of the student athletes and their development into successful, engaged citizens at the forefront of all the department’s endeavors,” said Mr. Sugiyama. The successful candidate, he added, must possess a record of unquestioned integrity and a history of successful leadership and program building at comparable institutions.

“The University is searching for a candidate with a record of enthusiastic and productive engagement of external and internal constituents, as well as a dynamic, creative, innovative and decisive personality,” Mr. Sugiyama said. “The successful candidate will have a genuine commitment to the long-term success of Pitt Athletics, including the students, the coaches, the staff of the University of Pittsburgh and the region.”


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The University of Pittsburgh’s athletic teams, referred to as the “Pitt Panthers,” include 19 university-sponsored varsity teams at the highest level of competitive collegiate athletics in the U.S.: the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I. Pitt’s highest-profile athletic programs, football and men’s basketball, are consistently competitive. Pitt has been regularly ranked as having one of the best combinations of football and basketball programs by multiple sports media outlets, including CBS Sports, ESPN, and Sports Illustrated.

A Leader In Sports Recruitment Takes Us Inside

DHR’s sports practice is a global specialty for the firm with capabilities that serve clients on six continents across all sports-related organizations, ranging from Fortune 500 companies and professional sports teams to public and private university athletics squads. The firm has handled a number searches for schools including the University of Pittsburgh, Colorado State University, Fresno State University, San Jose State, Kansas, Syracuse and Quinnipiac University.

Described by Forbes magazine as “one of the most influential men in college athletics,” Mr. Sugiyama has been placing talent in professional sports organizations and for top academic institutions around the world, including senior sports executives and head coaches. He is considered a human capital expert in the sports industry, and is frequently asked to share his opinions and insights in the media, and speak about his experiences internationally.

Mr. Sugiyama recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media and discussed the nuances of recruiting athletic directors.

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Glenn, what else have you done for Pitt?

We assisted the university in the placement of Scott Barnes, the former athletic director in 2015. Scott recently left Pittsburgh for the athletic director position at Oregon State University. Chancellor Gallagher immediately reached out to me to launch the current search for a new leader for Pitt athletics.

Colleges are turning to search firms left and right for coaching and athletic director leadership. Why not do it themselves since they clearly know the network?

The success of intercollegiate athletics, measured in a multitude of ways, is prioritized on many campuses across this country. These enterprises are filled with complexities but one constant remains: head coaches and athletic directors are critical hires that have a profound impact on every institution.

“Search firms mitigate the risk involved and allow the institution to make the very best hire with as much information as possible. For a college to attempt to do an athletic search on their own without the assistance of a search firm would be like building a stadium without an architect.”

These positions are two of the highest profile and typically are hired in an expedited timeframe. The use of a search firm gives them an advantage in terms of counsel, identification of prospective employees and confidentiality.

Talk about risk and due diligence.

The margin for error in these searches is razor thin and the need to make successful hires is paramount. Search firms mitigate the risk involved and allow the institution to make the very best hire with as much information and due diligence as possible. For a college to attempt to do an important athletic search on their own without the assistance of a search firm would be like them building a stadium without an architect or a contractor.

What unique benefits do you bring to the party?

Using a search firm to find their AD or head coach brings many benefits to colleges, including speed, coordination and discretion in an industry where all three are vital. Search firms can provide many tangible and intangible items in a search process. In addition to confidentiality, industry expertise, organization and detail, search firms give the institution a credible and professional third party to confidentially reach out to high profile candidates on their behalf while providing the institution protection and plausible deniability.

Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media

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