November 7, 2023 – Atlanta-based Parker Executive Search has been retained by Wofford College to lead in its search for a new director of athletics. After 40 years of service to Wofford College, the past 23 as director of athletics, Richard Johnson has announced his retirement. He will step down at the end of the search for his replacement. Daniel Parker, vice president and managing director, is leading the assignment.
Reporting to the college president and serving on the cabinet, the director of athletics is responsible for providing leadership, strategic vision, direction and management for the college’s athletics program in a way that promotes Wofford College’s vision, mission and core values. The school notes that the incoming leader represents the college’s athletics interests in its many relationships with students, staff, faculty, alumni, fans and athletics organizations and seeks to win at the most competitive level while maintaining a commitment to excellence in character, performance, leadership, service to others and lifelong learning.
The successful candidate will have a demonstrated record of administrative leadership and accomplishment in university or college sports programs to include visionary strategic and operational leadership, creative and conceptual thinking and effective resources management; or equivalent management experience, according to the job spec. They will have a commitment to a competitive collegiate athletics program in the context of an academically rigorous environment. In addition, candidates should also have a commitment to and understanding of best practices in the areas of fundraising, scholarships and fiscal stewardship, and evidence of strong communications skills that are central to building relationships with internal and external constituents.
Located in Spartanburg, SC, and founded in 1854, Wofford College is a national liberal arts college. The school competes on the NCAA division I level with membership in the Southern Conference. More than 400 student-athletes compete on one of the college’s 20 men’s and women’s athletics teams. Wofford College has been the summer home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers’ summer training camp for the past 26 years.
Parker Executive Search conducts executive searches for corporations, colleges and universities and collegiate athletics. The firm has a wide range of client schools, including Notre Dame, Dartmouth, the University of Chicago, Iowa State, Fordham, University of Central Florida, University of Oregon, Clemson University, the University of Tennessee, and Iowa State University, among many others.
Mr. Parker leads Parker Executive Search’s sports practice. He has worked on numerous corporate vice president searches, collegiate athletic director searches, and collegiate basketball, baseball and football head coach searches. In his role, Mr. Parker is also responsible for business development and candidate development.
Before joining Parker Executive Search, Mr. Parker spent 10 years in the sales and marketing division for Nissan North America in California, Florida and South Carolina before moving to Atlanta in 2009. Along with his extensive sales and marketing experience, he also spent time working in automotive finance for Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp.
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 at 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.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Executive Editor; Lily Fauver, Senior Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media