June 2, 2023 – TurnkeyZRG has been retained by University of the Pacific to lead its search for a new athletic director. The firm is seeking a high-energy, entrepreneurial, and innovative leader. Reporting directly to the president, the AD will lead the school’s 17 Division I athletic programs and serve on the president’s cabinet as one of the university’s 10 key executive leaders.
The successful candidate will be a strategic thinker focused squarely on the success of our student-athletes – in the classroom and on the fields of play – through the creation of a positive, values-driven and forward-looking culture; the recruitment and development of coaches; and the acquisition of new resources through fundraising, enrollment, external partnerships, and new revenue-raising initiatives, according to TurnkeyZRG. The AD, who must have an outstanding record of leadership in intercollegiate athletics, strategic thinking and design, fundraising and creative new revenue-generating initiatives and partnerships, will be both a long-term strategist and a tactician who can execute with a sense of urgency.
The successful candidate will be a listener, a synthesizer, a collaborator, and a doer who embraces the empowering leadership concepts of autonomy, responsibility, and accountability and practices clear, constant, respectful, and trustworthy communications with all stakeholder groups. The AD will work side-by-side in collaboration with key partners, including the president, the vice president for development, the vice president for student life, the vice president for strategic enrollment, and the provost.
The winning candidate will have primary responsibility and oversight of the Pacific Athletic Department and its 17 athletic programs – 10 women and seven men. The primary goal will be to maximize the success of the school’s student-athletes, both on the field and academically. The AD will achieve that through increasing the resources of athletics via fundraising, new revenue-raising initiatives, new partnerships with external entities, and new enrollment.
University of the Pacific is a comprehensive national university located in Northern California, with campuses in Stockton, Sacramento, and San Francisco. Established in 1851, the school has more than 6,300 students. The Stockton Campus is home to most of the university’s undergraduate programs and a variety of graduate programs in six schools and colleges: College of the Pacific (liberal arts and sciences), Eberhardt School of Business, Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy, School of Engineering and Computer Science, Conservatory of Music, and Benerd College.
Serving Sports, Media and Entertainment Organizations
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.
Collectively, the members of TurnkeyZRG have placed coaches and athletics directors at many PAC-12 universities, including Arizona, Cal, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, and Washington State. Late last year, TurnkeyZRG helped the ACC hire its next commissioner, James J. Phillips, the Combe Family vice president for athletics and recreation at Northwestern University. TurnkeyZRG spoke with stakeholders across the ACC in developing the job description, and assembled a diverse array of candidates across sports, education, business, and government.
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 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.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media