Yale Taps Witt/Kieffer to Find New Athletic Director

November 27, 2017 – Executive search firm 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. Greg Santore, principal and practice leader of Witt/Kieffer’s sports leadership practice, is leading the search along with senior associate Katy Young.

The incoming leader will oversee a staff of more than 200, a department budget of $51 million and facilities that include 22 separate venues, including a golf course and an outdoor recreation center. The new AD will manage a wide array of recreation and wellness initiatives and an active community outreach program, according to Witt/Kieffer. The new director is charged with maintaining strong relationships with a variety of important stakeholders, including students, staff, faculty and alumni.

The Right Match

The successful candidate must have unquestioned integrity and excellent management skills, said the search firm. Yale is seeking an individual who is visionary, strategic, collaborative, resourceful and innovative. He or she should be responsive to the opportunities and challenges of leading the program into the next generation in the highly complex and competitive environment of an NCAA Division I (FCS) athletics program within the Ivy Group, said the recruitment firm.

Founded in 1701, Yale is the third oldest institution of education in the U.S. Boasting 33 varsity sports and over 900 student athletes, Yale has averaged more than 10 nationally ranked teams each year and has won national championships in men’s hockey, men’s and women’s squash, sailing and rowing.

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.

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.

AD 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.

AD searches are some of the most prolific assignments for recruitment firms in the sports sector. Here are some recent AD assignments from the Hunt Scanlon Media archives:

Parker Executive Search has been selected by Northeastern University in Boston to find new athletic director. Peter Roby will retire in June, concluding more than 15 years with the university. Daniel Parker, vice president and managing director, is leading the search along with associate Hayden Garrett. Athletic directors are playing an increasingly vital role across the country.

Korn Ferry placed director of athletics at the University of Virginia.
Carla Williams became the first female African-American AD at a Power Five conference school and is the fifth active female AD at that level. Craig Littlepage, the longest tenured athletic director in UVA history, is retiring after 16 years in the role.

Sports and entertainment recruitment firm Turnkey Search placed Bill Moos as athletic director at the University of Nebraska. The chancellor said Mr. Moos rose to the top of a group of candidates that included several sitting athletic directors from Power 5 conference schools. 

Collegiate Sports Associates retained by University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) to lead search for a new athletic director. UTSA president Taylor Eighmy said that the group’s goal should be “to identify an exceptional leader who is committed to the university’s advancement to excellence in academics, research, engagement and athletics.”

Turnkey Search recruited John Currie as director of athletics and vice chancellor at the University of Tennessee. He replaced Dave Hart, who announced his retirement last year after six years with the school. Turnkey Search also recently placed Todd Stansbury as athletic director for Georgia Tech.

DHR International placed Heather Lyke as athletic director at the University of Pittsburgh. Glenn Sugiyama, DHR’s managing partner and global sports practice leader, led the assignment along with partner Pat Richter. DHR also recruited an insider, Jeffrey Schulman, as athletic director at the University of Vermont (UVM).

Eastman & Beaudine placed Jon Gilbert as the new athletic director of the University of Southern Mississippi. Over the past 40 years, Eastman & Beaudine has conducted numerous assignments to find head football or basketball coaches for a number of universities.

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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