September 7, 2017 – Athletic directors are playing an increasingly vital role at colleges and universities across the country. With the expansion of athletic departments and, for the larger schools, the infusion of big dollars for sports, more schools have turned to search firms when such positions become open. Too much is at stake, they feel, to go it alone. What’s more, the AD job has come to demand greater business and management skills than the typical academic search.
Atlanta-based Parker Executive Search recently placed Eddie Nuñez as the director of athletics at the University of New Mexico (UNM). Paul Krebs retired at the end of June after 11 years as vice president of athletics. Daniel Parker, Parker’s vice president and managing director, led the assignment.
Sources say that UNM’s agreement with Parker was believed to be for about $50,000, not including logistical costs such as flights, lodging and expenses for any candidate interviews the firm may have conducted itself.
The Right Match
“We had a good search process that yielded three qualified and personable candidates,” UNM interim president Chaouki Abdallah said. “We were looking for a leader who is dedicated to academic excellence, strong ethics, careful financial management and community engagement. The committee and I agreed that Eddie is the right person for this key position.”
Since 2003, Mr. Nuñez has served in a variety of high-level administrative capacities at Louisiana State University, ultimately serving as deputy director of athletics. Among his duties, Nuñez had sport oversight of LSU men’s basketball and men’s and women’s tennis. He also served as the department’s liaison with LSU Sports Properties, the Tiger Athletic Foundation and University Licensing and Brand Management.
In his new role, Mr. Nuñez is responsible for planning, administering and directing all of the school’s NCAA Division I intercollegiate athletic programs for men and women. He will ensure that all athletics programs are in compliance with NCAA and Mountain West Conference rules, regulations and policies.
“Eddie is extremely bright and very hard working,” said LSU athletic director Joe Alleva. “He will energize the athletic department and engage with the community. New Mexico has hired a rising star.”
LSU head baseball coach Paul Mainieri said UNM made a smart choice. “We will miss him at LSU as he was a vital part of the athletic department here,” he said. “However, he is ready for this new challenge in his professional life. Eddie has the ‘It’ factor that we so often (ascribe to) people in our business that are destined to be successful. He will provide strong leadership to the coaching staff, athletic support staff and athletes at UNM.”
Parker Executive Search conducts executive searches for corporations, colleges and universities, and collegiate athletics. Its sports practice represents clients conducting searches to fill positions ranging from president/ CEO, EVP/ SVP/ general manager and executive director to conference commissioner, athletic director, head coach, and assistant coach, among others.
The firm’s sports practice has a wide range of client schools, including Notre Dame, Dartmouth, the University of Chicago, Iowa State, Fordham and the University of Central Florida. Last year, the firm recruited David Benedict as athletic director for the University of Connecticut. It also placed Mark Jackson as director of athletics at Villanova University as well as Jennifer Cohen as the new AD of the University of Washington.
Athletic director searches are some of the most prolific assignments in the sports sector to come to recruitment firms in recent years. Here’s a sampling of recent AD assignments from the Hunt Scanlon Media archives:
Collegiate Sports Associates (CSA) recruited Desiree Reed-Francois as athletic director of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). The school paid CSA $75,000 plus expenses directly related to the search, according to UNLV sources. Ms. Reed-Francois, previously the deputy athletics director at Virginia Tech, has more than two decades of leadership experience.
Turnkey Search recruited John Currie as director of athletics and vice chancellor at the University of Tennessee. He replaced Dave Hart, who announced his retirement last year after six years with the school. Turnkey Search also recently placed Todd Stansbury as athletic director for Georgia Tech.
DHR International just placed Heather Lyke as athletic director at the University of Pittsburgh. Glenn Sugiyama, DHR’s managing partner and global sports practice leader, led the assignment along with partner Pat Richter who spearheads the firm’s specialized sports practice group. DHR also recruited an insider, Jeffrey Schulman, as athletic director at the University of Vermont (UVM).
Eastman & Beaudine placed Jon Gilbert as the new athletic director of the University of Southern Mississippi. Past AD Bill McGillis left the school to take on the executive director of athletics role at the University of San Diego. Eastman & Beaudine has conducted numerous assignments to find head football or basketball coaches for a number of universities.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media