October 18, 2018 – Universities continue to turn to executive search firms to find new athletic directors. Atlanta-based Parker Executive Search has been selected by the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs to lead its search for a new athletic director. Jim Knowlton stepped down from his role this spring to take over as director of athletics at the University of California, Berkeley. Dan Parker, the search firm’s vice president and managing director, is leading the assignment.
Parker Executive Search announced last week that it will bring a list of candidates later this fall to the Air Force Academy Athletic Corp. for selection, in coordination with the Academy superintendent, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria.
“This new hiring process enables the academy to attract talented, experienced applicants who will be compensated in a manner consistent with similar positions in the Mountain West Conference and enable enhanced development efforts, while maintaining the leadership and accountability we need in this position,” said Lt. Gen. Silveria.
The academy invites applications, letters of nomination or expressions of interest for the position of director of athletics to be submitted to the search firm.
In the meantime, Jennifer Block, reserve advisor to the superintendent, was named the academy’s interim director of athletics. “It is an absolute honor to be in this position at my alma mater,” said Ms. Block. “Mr. Knowlton built an amazing team that is poised for continued success. I look forward to helping them in any way I can to continue their progress, represent the values of our academy, and in welcoming whoever is chosen for this position in the coming months.”
The athletic teams that represent the Air Force Academy are known as the Falcons. The intercollegiate program has 17 men’s and 10 women’s NCAA-sanctioned teams. The majority of the Falcons teams compete as members of the Mountain West Conference.
Sports and Entertainment Expansion Elevating Search Business
Over the last quarter century, 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. Much of that has forever changed.
Teams with tremendous 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.
Parker Executive Search conducts executive searches for corporations, colleges and universities and collegiate athletics. Its sports practice represents clients looking to fill positions such as president, CEO, EVP, SVP, general manager, executive director, 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.
Mr. Parker has worked on numerous corporate vice president searches, collegiate athletic director searches and collegiate basketball, baseball and football head coach searches. In his role, Daniel is also responsible for business development and candidate development.
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.
SRi, an international executive search firm focused on the sports, media and entertainment sectors, published a report not long ago on how the modern day AD serves more as a CEO-type function than as a coaching figurehead. SRi recently spoke with several university presidents on this topic.
“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, said SRi.
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