College Sports Solutions Recruits Commissioner for Big Sky Conference

November 26, 2018 – Executive recruitment firm College Sports Solutions (CSS) has placed Tom Wistrcill as the seventh commissioner of the Big Sky Conference, a Division I collegiate athletic league in the western U.S. The previous commissioner, Andrea Williams, moved on this summer to become chief operating officer of the College Football Playoffs. Jeff Schemmel, founder and president of the search firm, led the assignment.

“The Big Sky Conference and the presidents’ council are delighted to welcome Tom Wistrcill into the Big Sky Family,” said Robert Nelsen, chair of the Big Sky presidents’ council. “In Tom, we have a leader who will continue to guide the Big Sky to even greater heights. As one of his fellow commissioners said, ‘Tom is creative and visionary.’ We look forward to working with him. The future is very bright for the Big Sky Conference.”

Mr. Wistrcill arrives at the Big Sky Conference after having served as senior vice president at Learfield Sports since 2015. While with Learfield, he helped develop new collegiate relationships within the company’s University Partnership Group. In 2015, Mr. Wistrcill returned to Learfield after serving as general manager for its Badger Sports Properties team representing Wisconsin Athletics from 2002 to 2006.

“I’ve known and worked alongside Tom Wistrcill for nearly two decades,” said Greg Brown, president and CEO of Learfield Sports. “He’s a strong, highly qualified and skilled leader. He will bring creativity and enthusiasm to the Big Sky Conference as its next commissioner.”

Former Athletic Director

Mr. Wistrcill is also a former Division I athletics director with nearly 25 years of experience in college athletics. His previous stints include serving as the director of athletics at the University of Akron from 2009 to 2015. He also made stops at the University of Minnesota as the senior associate athletics director and has six years of conference office experience serving as commissioner of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

Related: Executive Recruiters Continue Their Expansion into the Sports Industry

“The Big Sky Conference has found the right person for the job,” said Joel Maturi, former director of athletics at Minnesota. “Tom’s passion for college athletics and the student-athletes, his ability to develop and nurture strong relationships, and his great work ethic will be great assets to the Big Sky and its institutions.”


Sports and Entertainment Expansion Elevating Search Business

Over the last 25 years, the sports sector has grown into a formidable global industry. Historically, professional sports teams operated on a relatively modest level, with league officials, team owners, managers, and coaches surrounding themselves with people they knew and trusted from their own small worlds. College sports teams relied on in-house search committees and word-of-mouth recommendations. Familiarity, however, can also breed contempt.

Teams with huge followings like the Dallas Cowboys, Real Madrid and Manchester United have seen their valuations soar into the billions of dollars. That’s attracted search firms – big time. Seasoned recruiters now provide strategic planning advice, in addition to talent identification services, with the capability of applying their findings to speed along the process in the hunt for talent. Here’s some further reading from Hunt Scanlon Media.


Founded in 1963, the Big Sky Conference spans eight states. The conference sponsors championships in 16 sports, nine women’s and seven men’s, with about 4,500 student-athletes. The conference has 11 full members and four affiliate members (two football and two men’s golf). Big Sky full members include Eastern Washington University, University of Idaho, Idaho State University, University of Montana, Montana State University, Northern Arizona University, University of Northern Colorado, Portland State University, Sacramento State University, Southern Utah University and Weber State University. The two football affiliate members are University of California, Davis and California Polytechnic State University while the men’s two golf affiliates are Binghamton University and the University of Hartford.

Related: Recruiters Offer Sports Clients an Expanding Talent Platform

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.

Blue Chip Universities

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.

Mr. Schemmel directs all business development and intercollegiate industry relations and provides hands-on services. Prior to launching CSS, he was the managing director of the college division of JMI Sports.

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: Executive Recruiters Prove Invaluable to Thriving Global Sports Sector

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

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