Witt/Kieffer Tapped to Find New AD for University of California, Berkeley

January 23, 2018 – Executive search firm Witt/Kieffer has been retained by the University of California, Berkeley, to lead the search for a new director of intercollegiate athletics. The new hire will replace Mike Williams, who is retiring in May.

Greg Santore, principal and practice leader of Witt/Kieffer’s sports leadership practice, is leading the assignment, along with senior partner Zachary Smith, deputy managing partner for the firm’s education practice, and consultant Katy Young, senior associate in sports leadership. The university and search firm are expected to soon announce position specifications and a timeline for completion of the search.

“This is a truly important leadership recruitment for our university,” said Carol Christ, chancellor. “The opportunities as well as challenges in college athletics today are significant. We have had very productive conversations with the consultants at Witt/Kieffer on our objectives and aspirations for our intercollegiate athletics program, about our dedication to our student-athletes and department employees, and about our unique institutional mission and culture.”

Mr. Santore said that the athletic director role at Cal is an exceptional opportunity and that he expects tremendous interest. “It is critical that Cal’s next director of intercollegiate athletics be able to carry on a great legacy while helping the university and its student athletes adapt and excel in the ever-changing world of college sports,” he said.

The University of California, Berkeley fields 30 varsity athletic programs and various club teams in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I, primarily as a member of the Pac-12 Conference. The school has won team national titles in 13 men’s and three women’s sports, with 105 team titles overall.

Related: Executive Search Gets ‘On the Ball’ In Sports Recruitment

Seasoned Recruiters

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 charitable 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.


Yale Taps Witt/Kieffer to Find New Athletic Director
Witt/Kieffer has been retained by Yale University to lead its search for a new director of athletics. Thomas Beckett, who has served in the role for 24 years, is retiring next June. The incoming leader will oversee a staff of more than 200, a department budget of $51 million and facilities that include 22 separate venues.


Dr. Smith conducts nationwide searches for C-suite and leadership executives within education, healthcare and the non-profit sector. He has over 17 years of leadership experience and has supported and led higher education president searches for AAU, research, regional comprehensive, polytechnic and liberal arts institutions. He has also supported executive leadership searches for a broad range of public and private universities and healthcare organizations.

Related: Recruiters Offer Sports Clients an Expanding Talent Platform

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

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. “30-40 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.

Related: Executive Recruiters Continue Their Expansion into the Sports Industry

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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