TurnkeyZRG Seeking Director of Athletics for the University of Iowa

January 5, 2024 – TurnkeyZRG was recently selected by the University of Iowa to lead in its search for a new director of athletics. Past athletics director Gary Barta announced last year that he will retire after 17 years at the university. The director of athletics provides leadership and strategic direction to the university’s athletic programs, ensuring the overall success, integrity, and compliance of the department. The University of Iowa Department of Intercollegiate Athletics employs more than 250 full-time staff who work to provide more than 650 male and female student-athletes across 22 athletic program a superior academic and athletic experience.

TurnkeyZRG notes that the athletics director supervises a staff of athletic coaches, professional and support personnel, develops and manages operating budgets for the intercollegiate athletics program, and participates in fundraising activities, while safeguarding the well-being of student-athletes on and off the field. Reporting directly to the university president and as a member of the president’s cabinet, the athletics director represents the department of athletics with integrity while ensuring compliance with university, NCAA, and Big Ten Conference rules, regulations, and policies.

Candidate applying for this position should have a master’s degree in athletics administration, business administration, or related field, or an equivalent combination of education and experience. They must have at least seven years of experience in athletics administration. Candidates should also have a deep understanding of intercollegiate athletics and current issues facing Division I Intercollegiate athletics, including Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) and collectives, the potential impact of student-athletes being reclassified as employees, and issues arising from the NCAA transformation committee and how they will impact the strength and viability of the institution. Previous experience in intercollegiate athletics in finance, facilities management, compliance, marketing, student services, human resources, fundraising, investment, and/or sports supervision is preferred.

The Iowa Hawkeyes are the athletic teams that represent the University of Iowa. The Hawkeyes have varsity teams in 20 sports, seven for men and 13 for women; The teams participate in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and are members of the Big Ten Conference. Currently, the school’s interim athletic director is Beth Goetz.

Founded in 1996, TurnkeyZRG is a specialized talent recruitment/executive search firm filling C-level, senior-level and mid-management-level positions throughout sports, media and entertainment. Over the past 25 years, the firm has filled more than 1,400 positions. TurnkeyZRG helps teams, leagues, stadiums, arenas, theaters, college athletic departments, events, sponsors, agencies, media companies, private equity companies and other clients identify, recruit, and hire the best management talent.

Related: TurnkeyZRG Recruits Commissioner for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Len Perna is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Turnkey. He has 30-plus years’ experience in the sports and entertainment industry, with senior-level management experience in sales, event marketing and management, sponsorships, venue feasibility and development, facility operations, licensing, and legal affairs. Since founding Turnkey, Mr. Perna has managed over 1,400 executive searches.

Athletic Directors

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.

TurnkeyZRG Assists Big Ten Conference in Recruiting Seventh Commissioner
Following an extensive national search, TurnkeyZRG has assisted in the recruitment of Tony Petitti as the seventh commissioner of the Big Ten Conference. He will begin his tenure on May 15. He replaces Kevin Warren, who is becoming president and CEO of the Chicago Bears. TurnkeyZRG conducted a comprehensive and inclusive recruitment process that delivered a diverse slate of potential candidates from within collegiate athletics, professional sports, media, government, and more. “Tony Petitti is a great fit with the Big Ten,” said Len Perna, chairman and CEO of TurnkeyZRG. “On top of that, another way to look at Tony’s hire is holistically across college athletics, meaning that Tony is a key puzzle piece on the macro team: Charlie Baker, Greg Sankey, etc. That macro team has to figure out a bunch of big, vexing, complex issues in college athletics. Tony’s experience is complimentary and additive to the other key players on THAT macro team. That’s not by accident,” he said.

“The bar was so incredibly high on this search,” Mr. Perna said. “The Big Ten is the strongest blend of athletics and academics, sitting at the epicenter of college sports. The states that make up the Big Ten, now coast to coast, are major engines of the U.S. economy, government, culture, education, etc. There is no more powerful alliance in education or sports. And that attracted an extremely strong and diverse pool of incredible candidates.”

“The AD today is the CEO of athletic operations at a college,” said John Lahey, former 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: TurnkeyZRG Assists Pac-12 Conference with Chief People and Inclusion Officer

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Executive Editor; Lily Fauver, Senior Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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