February 26, 2018 – Athletic director searches are among the most prolific assignments for recruitment firms in the sports sector.
Bucknell University, the latest college to turn to an executive recruiter, is seeking a dynamic, collaborative and energetic leader to become its next director of athletics.
The school has enlisted Witt/Kieffer to lead its national search. Greg Santore, principal and practice leader of the search firm’s sports leadership practice, is spearheading the assignment, along with consultant Katy Young.
The opening came about when John Hardt, who held the AD job since 2000, announced in November that he would be leaving Bucknell to become athletic director at the University of Richmond at the beginning of this year. Tim Pavlechko, the school’s deputy director of athletics, is serving as interim AD until the new AD is found.
The key roles and responsibilities of the new AD – who will report to Bucknell’s president, John Bravman – include oversight of the department consistent with the university’s mission of educating students for a lifetime of critical thinking and strong leadership, said the search firm. The new AD will help develop a vision and a strategic plan for athletics that align with the university’s master plan and enhance the educational experience by providing athletic opportunities to students with varying interest and skills.
The incoming leader must have knowledge of the principles of intercollegiate athletics administration, budgeting and personnel management, NCAA and Patriot League rules and regulations, Title IX compliance, gender equity and diversity, said Witt/ Kieffer. Candidates must have the ability to inspire and motivate students, faculty, staff, colleagues, alumni and friends of the university in support of the mission, vision and strategic plan. In addition, the right prospect should have experience in facilities oversight and planning, budget management and strategic planning.
Located in Lewisburg, PA, Bucknell is a NCAA Division I school with a strong academic and athletics tradition. As a member of the Patriot League, Bison Athletics sponsors 27 varsity sports, 17 club sports and a host of intramural and recreational opportunities for its student population.
Witt/Kieffer’s sports leadership practice recruits leaders for colleges and universities, sports foundations, alumni associations, governing bodies and sports federations, professional leagues and teams and other non-profit organizations.
Mr. Santore has recruited CEOs, presidents and other senior executives for organizations in healthcare, higher education and the not-for-profit sector. As head of the firm’s sports leadership practice, he also specializes in recruiting college athletic directors and CEOs for major sports foundations, associations and charities. He is currently leading AD searches for West Chester University of Pennsylvania and Muskingum University.
Witt/Kieffer Finds New AD for Yale University
Witt/Kieffer placed Victoria M. Chun as the new director of athletics of Yale University. Recognized by Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal as a “Game Changer,” Ms. Chun has earned a stellar reputation as one of the most innovative and well-respected leaders in NCAA Division I athletics.
Ms. Young has supported over 40 searches for Division I head coaches and athletic directors. She has also worked with clients across professional sports (including NBA, MLB, and NHL teams) as well as major events and venues.
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, recently published a report on how the modern day AD takes on more CEO-type role than 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. “30 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.”
“You need to make sure the AD is a senior member of the entire university staff,” said Bill Lennox, president at St. Leo University in Florida. “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.”
SRi notes that 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; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media