College Sports Solutions and Buffkin / Baker Tapped to Find Commissioner for Big West Conference

February 13, 2020 – The Big West Conference has begun its search for a new commissioner to replace Dennis Farrell, who recently announced his retirement after leading the conference for 27 years. Collegiate athletics consultants College Sports Solutions (CSS) and Buffkin / Baker are managing the search process, with Jeff Schemmel, president of CSS, acting as lead consultant, with assistance from Dan Walters of Buffkin / Baker.

“We are looking forward to finding the very best commissioner and will engage all Big West member institutions in the process,” said Jane Close Conoley, president of California State University, Long Beach, and chair of the search committee as well as the president’s council. “After careful vetting of search firms, College Sports Solutions and Buffkin / Baker were chosen due to their experience in the marketplace and successes in college athletics searches.”

Ms. Conoley indicated that the goal is to have a new commissioner announced by May 31.

“The Big West Conference is one of the preeminent Division I conferences in the nation, with a long and storied history of success,” Mr. Schemmel said. “Our team is looking forward to representing and assisting the Big West Conference in finding a new leader who can build on that success.”

The Big West Conference is comprised of four members of the University of California system (UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara), four members of the California State University system (Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton, CSUN and Long Beach State), and Hawai‘i. On July 1, CSU Bakersfield and UC San Diego will join the Big West, boosting conference membership to 11 schools. Currently, the Big West sponsors championships in 18 sports (eight men’s and 10 women’s).

Strategic Partners

Earlier this year, CSS and Buffkin / Baker formed a partnership, combining their executive search services to better serve universities and colleges, intercollegiate conferences and collegiate athletic organizations. The two organizations collaborate in all areas of the executive search business at many of the nation’s leading institutions. “The newly formed partnership with College Sports Solutions will further enhance our higher education practice,” said Martin Baker, managing partner and head of the higher education practice at Buffkin / Baker. “Exemplary search relies on the ability to adapt to the changing collegiate landscape and we are thrilled to be collaborating with CSS to ensure continued success in this area.”

Related: Korn Ferry Lands New Commissioner for the Big Ten Conference

Buffkin / Baker has completed more than 550 searches for universities and colleges across the country. The firm recently conducted searches for a number of institutions in the Power Five conferences, as well as leading liberal arts colleges, AAU institutions and regional universities. The firm’s office locations include Nashville, New York, Washington, D.C. and Winston-Salem, NC, with affiliate offices in London. Buffkin/ Baker is a member of Panorama Search, an international federation of retained firms with 18 firms and over 30 offices globally.


Search Firms Partner to Find New Commissioner for Southern Conference

College Sports Solutions and Buffkin / Baker have collaborated to recruit Ohio University director of athletics Jim Schaus as the new commissioner of the Southern Conference. Mr. Schaus comes to the SoCon after an 11-year run as director of athletics at Ohio University, where he led the Bobcats to unprecedented levels of success in athletics and academics.


Mr. Walters works in Buffkin / Baker’s higher education and sports practices and is based out of the Winston-Salem office. He was previously associate head men’s golf coach at Wake Forest University, where he managed recruiting, daily operations and team development efforts.

CSS is a leading full-service and integrated provider of collegiate athletic consulting, strategies and solutions to universities, intercollegiate conferences and collegiate organizations. The firm provides executive search services for coach and administrator searches. CSS clients run the gamut of collegiate sports institutions, including Auburn University, Alabama State University, Alabama A & M University, Boise State University, Brigham Young University, University of Colorado, Colorado State University, Grand Canyon University, Montana State University, New Mexico State University, Oregon State University, Presbyterian College, Tulane University, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Central Missouri, University of Houston, University of Minnesota, University of New Mexico, University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), University of North Carolina (Charlotte), University of Northern Iowa, University of South Dakota, University of South Florida and University of Utah.

With over 25 years of intercollegiate athletics management experience, Mr. Schemmel is a former athletic director who has served in key leadership positions within the NCAA, the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA, and at schools in the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences. He was director of athletics at San Diego State University from 2005 to 2009. During his tenure, he negotiated the school’s first comprehensive apparel/equipment contract with Nike and was responsible for hiring and retaining many of the school’s successful coaches and administrators.

Related: Egon Zehnder Finds New Commissioner for Australian Football League

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor  – Hunt Scanlon Media

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