July 24, 2020 – Universities continue to turn to executive search firms to find new athletic directors. Glenn Sugiyama, managing partner and global sports practice leader at DHR International, has been called in by Central Michigan University (CMU) to lead in its search for its next Zyzelewski Family associate vice president/director of athletics. After three years at the helm of Central Michigan University athletics, Michael Alford will leave the school at the end of August to become the next CEO of Seminole Boosters, Inc., at Florida State University.
“We will seek candidates committed to furthering our championship culture and to our foundation that athletes are students first,” said Bob Davies, president of Central Michigan University. “The successful candidate will be a leader engaged in our campus and surrounding community, and fully committed to our vision for rigor, relevance and excellence.”
The associate vice president/director of athletics reports directly to the university president and is responsible for providing strong leadership, administration, and overall coordination of a comprehensive Division I intercollegiate program.
“CMU’s authentic culture and commitment to not just winning at the Division 1 level but excelling in an upper mid-major conference is unparalleled,” said Mr. Alford, who has committed to assisting with the search to find his successor. “Our success on and off the field demonstrates that. I am committed to working with the president to help find a successor committed to our mission of excellence, which promises to provide an authentic environment where student-athletes can thrive in academics and athletics.”
A Leader in Sports Recruitment
DHR’s sports practice is a global specialty for the firm with capabilities on six continents across all sports-related organizations. These range from Fortune 500 companies and professional sports teams to public and private university athletics. The firm has overseen searches for the University of Pittsburgh, Colorado State University, Fresno State University, San Jose State, Kansas, Syracuse and Quinnipiac University, among others.
Described by Forbes magazine as “one of the most influential men in college athletics,” Mr. Sugiyama places talent for 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.
At age 27, Mr. Sugiyama became one of the youngest directors of a major U.S. pro sports team when he was named to the board of directors of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls. Prior to the Bulls, he was a Division I college basketball coach. Recently, he was named one of the “Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business” in the U.S.
“Glenn is professional, he’s thorough and integrity is important to him,” Brian Battle, the former senior associate director of athletics for internal operations at Florida Atlantic University, told the Tallahassee Democrat. “He puts together the best candidate pool for the university to make the decision.”
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.
“The AD today is the CEO of athletic operations at a college,” said John Lahey, current president at Quinnipiac University. “Thirty to 40 years ago, you were more likely to see former coaches and athletes promoted into those roles as a way of rewarding success or longevity, but now you need a business person who is able to lead people, generate revenue and understand how the marketing and brand of athletics can impact the entire university.”
Bill Lennox, president at St. Leo University in Florida, said schools must make sure that the AD is a senior member of the entire university staff. “We moved the AD to the equivalent level of a vice president, so he sat in all of the meetings and in the decision-making process with the rest of the VPs of the university,” he said.
The modern AD position oversees finances, marketing, human resources, student-athlete wellness, media contracts, and of course overall performance – all while salaries head well into seven figures and beyond.
Related: Collegiate Sports Associates Assists Cal Maritime in Athletic Director Search
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media