The search for the next athletic director at Whitworth University is officially going nowhere, for now.
President Beck Taylor named Melinda Larson the interim director of athletics last June when Aaron Leetch announced he would return to Illinois State after directing Whitworth’s 20 sports teams for two years. With the new school term beginning in two weeks, Taylor said he has no time frame for when the official search will begin.
Unofficially, the search may already be over.
Taylor said he plans to talk with his coaches and athletic staff later this fall. But in the meantime, he spoke favorably about Larson, a Whitworth sports medicine graduate who started working at Whitworth as an assistant trainer some 18 years ago.
“I want Melinda to fill that role,” Taylor said. “I’m excited about Melinda’s leadership. She’s already off to a great start.”
At the time of her appointment, Larson had been serving as the head athletic trainer and associate professor, which put her in a unique position to know all the coaches and most of the more than 400 student-athletes, she said.
“As head athletic trainer, I had to know who was doing what and where. I had to make sure we had all the medical needs covered as well as being a huge Pirates fan and going to watch the games,” she said.
She worked closely with Leetch and had hoped to work as his understudy as she expanded her responsibilities into administration. “But the transition for me happened a lot faster than I was planning,” she said.
Larson, 43, earned a master’s degree in health education from Florida International University in 1994 and worked one year at the University of Alabama-Birmingham before returning to Spokane.
“I wanted to live in the Northwest. It was a bonus to be at my alma mater,” she said.
The former Pirates basketball player said she’s spoken to Taylor and came away with the same understanding: that the decision to lift the “interim” from her title will come sometime later this year.
“I went to a colleague who had served in an interim role … for advice. (The colleague) said, ‘Live into the position. Be the person Whitworth needs me to be,’ ” Larson said. “We need to have an athletic director and that’s who I hope to be.”