March 23, 2020 – Jeff Compher, Zach Smith and Kim Brettschneider of executive search firm WittKieffer are currently assisting the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in a national search for a new director of intercollegiate athletics.
“UCLA seeks an experienced, creative, inspiring and entrepreneurial leader with unwavering integrity, a strong work ethic and a commitment to transparency and collaboration with the broadest range of campus stakeholders to serve the institution as its eighth director of intercollegiate athletics,” said WittKieffer.
Reporting to the chancellor, the director of intercollegiate athletics will be expected to lead and manage a team of about 300 coaches and staff and support the academic and athletic activities of its student-athletes, said the search firm. The incoming director will manage and balance a budget of nearly $130 million while creatively identifying and securing new resources that support all 25 men’s and women’s athletic programs.
The successful candidate will represent and advocate for the athletic department on campus, within the community and across the nation. The individual will be expected to develop and implement a department-wide strategic plan that articulates a clear vision and strategy, aligning its goals and objectives to the university’s core values. The director should lead and manage the department with an unwavering commitment to gender, racial and ethnic diversity, equity and inclusion.
Finally, the director will be expected to engage with alumni, donors, volunteers, fans, industry executives and other external stakeholders to advance the department’s goals and objectives by creating awareness, building relationships and ultimately generating resource support for the department.
WittKieffer said the director should be knowledgeable and current on local, national and industry trends, such as the California Fair Pay for Play Act (NIL reform), post-season expansion, pending NCAA lawsuits, NCAA transfer and compliance issues, and admissions-related topics, especially pertaining to high-profile cases such as Operation Varsity Blues that could significantly impact the future of Bruin athletics and the broader university enterprise.
The successful candidate will be an exceptional and humble leader with the credibility and confidence to manage a prominent Division I athletics program, said the search firm. He or she will be expected to demonstrate a deep understanding of the demands and expectations associated with being a Division I student-athlete.
Prospects must possess energetic, inspirational leadership that motivates people to come together to achieve shared goals that promote the overall reputation of UCLA, said the search firm. Excellent judgment in decision-making and character assessment is vital.
Prospects should have: outstanding communication skills and leadership ability, including the capability to delegate and show confidence in the decisions made by others. Strong interpersonal skills that ease relationship building and foster partnering with alumni organizations and other external constituencies to create development opportunities, including a good sense of humor, are essential. Also needed is a thorough understanding of jobs performed by coaches and appreciation of the importance of mentoring, teaching and support that coaches provide students.
Qualifications include a working knowledge of the NCAA and the ability to recognize and engage the significant issues, especially those that most affect UCLA, Pac-12 and Division I intercollegiate sports in general. The ideal candidate will have demonstrated comparable, successful senior-level management experience that is affirmed by those surrounding the candidate’s previous organization(s). A bachelor’s degree is required; an advanced degree is preferred.
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.
UCLA is a member of the Pac-12 Conference and one of the premier NCAA Division I (FBS) programs in the country. It fields 25 men’s and women’s varsity sports with nearly 700 student-athletes. The 2019 graduation success rate (GSR) of 92 percent exceeds the national average of 88 percent for Division I schools. Six Bruin squads – men’s tennis, women’s basketball, women’s golf, women’s gymnastics, women’s rowing and women’s tennis — had a GSR of 100 percent. UCLA athletic teams have won 118 NCAA national championships – the second most in the country – and the institution was the first in the country to win 100 NCAA team titles. UCLA student-athletes have represented various U.S. Olympic teams, bringing home a combined 261 Olympic medals.
WittKieffer, based in Oak Brook, IL, assists hospitals, health systems, academic medical centers, medical schools and physician groups; biotech, pharmaceutical, diagnostics and medical device companies; colleges and universities and not-for-profit community service and cultural organizations with senior administrative recruiting assignments. With more than 100 search professionals nationwide, its consultants recruit CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CNOs, physician executives and other leaders.
Mr. Compher, principal and leader of the intercollegiate athletics practice, is based in Chicago. He is a former director of athletics, long-time administrator and recognized expert on the sports landscape. Mr. Compher leads searches for athletics directors, coaches and senior-level administrators at a range of institutions, drawing upon more than 25 years of experience at leading colleges and universities.
Dr. Smith, based in Irvine, CA, is managing partner and education practice leader. He conducts searches for senior executives within education, healthcare and the non-profit sector.
Ms. Brettschneider, senior associate, conducts searches in WittKieffer’s education and not-for-profit practice, supporting institutions in identifying strong, influential leaders. She is based in New York.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media