March 3, 2017 – Sports recruiter Turnkey Search has placed John Currie as director of athletics and vice chancellor at the University of Tennessee. He replaces Dave Hart, who announced his retirement on August after six years with the school.
Mr. Currie has spent the last eight years as athletic director at Kansas State. He begins his duties at UT next month. Before Kansas State, he worked within the UT athletic administration in various capacities, including chief deputy and advisor to then AD Mike Hamilton. He received his master’s degree from UT in sports management.
“We are extremely pleased to announce John as our new vice chancellor and director of athletics,” said Beverly Davenport, University of Tennessee chancellor. “This is truly an exciting day for the University of Tennessee and our athletics department. As I said when we began this process, we were looking for the best candidate, and we feel strongly that we have him in John Currie.”
Mr. Currie exemplifies all the qualities the search committee was seeking in an athletics director, said Ms. Davenport. “He is a man of high integrity, strong values, a progressive thinker, he fully understands the importance of being compliant in everything we do, and he is a leader who will put the well-being of our student-athletes above everything.”
“John Currie has been incredibly effective as an athletics director and I am pleased he is bringing his leadership skills back to the SEC,” said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. “He is an accomplished athletics administrator and the University of Tennessee will benefit from the experience and enthusiasm he will bring to the position.”
Established in 1996, Turnkey Search has conducted more than 1,000 executive recruiting placements across the entire landscape of the sports & entertainment industry. It recently completed executive searches for president of the new NHL expansion team in Las Vegas, CFO of the Atlanta Hawks, CRO of the Anaheim Ducks, CMO of the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders, and it placed athletics directors at Michigan, Minnesota, Georgia Tech, Bowling Green and other Division I institutions.
Turnkey Search also recently placed Todd Stansbury as athletic director for Georgia Tech. The search was led by senior executive director Gene DeFilippo, a former athletic director at Boston College, Villanova and University of Kentucky, along with Len Perna, founder, president and chief executive officer of Turnkey Search. Turnkey Search also recruited Mark Coyle as director of athletics at the University of Minnesota. The University paid Turnkey Search $150,000 plus expenses to recruit and vet candidates for the position.
Universities Turning to Recruiters for AD Talent
The University of Tennessee is just one of an expanding number of schools turning to executive search firms to find athletics directors. So why are we seeing this trend? Search firms clearly bring a sense of security to schools when trying to fill this important sports role.
“Using a search firm to find their AD or head coach brings many benefits to colleges, including speed, coordination and discretion in an industry where all three are vital,” said Glenn Sugiyama, DHR International’s managing partner and global sports practice leader. “Search firms can provide many tangible and intangible items in a search process.”
In addition to confidentiality, industry expertise, organization and detail, he said, “search firms give the institution a credible and professional third party to confidentially reach out to high profile candidates on their behalf while providing the institution protection and plausible deniability.”
Here’s a sampling of recent athletic director assignments from the Hunt Scanlon Media archives:
- DHR International is currently leading the AD search for the University of Pittsburgh. Mr. Sugiyama, is heading the assignment along with partner Pat Richter who spearheads the firm’s specialized sports practice group. DHR also recruited an insider, Jeffrey Schulman, as athletic director at the University of Vermont (UVM). The firm was said to have been paid $75,000 to look for, vet and present candidates to UVM, along with another $9,000 for indirect costs and reimbursements of over $30,000 for advertising placements and traveling. Mr. Schulman is currently in his 12th year as senior associate athletic director at UVM.
- Eastman & Beaudine placed Jon Gilbert as the new athletic director of the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). Past AD Bill McGillis left the school to take on the executive director of athletics role at the University of San Diego.
- Collegiate Sports Associates (CSA) has been tapped by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) to lead its search for a new athletic director. UNLV will pay CSA $75,000 as well as any expenses directly related to the search, according to sources.
- Parker Executive Search placed John Cohen as the 17th director of athletics at Mississippi State University (MSU). The firm also recruited David Benedict as athletic director at the University of Connecticut; Mark Jackson as director of athletics at Villanova University; and Jennifer Cohen as the new AD of the University of Washington (UW). A UW spokesperson said the school paid the search firm $105,000 for its role in generating leading candidates and seeing the search process through to completion.
- Brill Neumann Associates placed pro football hall of fame wide receiver and USC alumnus Lynn Swann as athletic director of the University of Southern California (USC). Pat Haden retired from the post, ending his guidance of the Trojans through a tumultuous period in the school’s history.
Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media