No matter the challenge, Lynn Hickey seemingly has a plan for that.
Before she was named as Eastern Washington athletic director, Hickey had prepared a “90-day Impact Plan” covering all phases of the department.
Then she distributed copies to the audience at last week’s public forum.
Hickey wasn’t being presumptuous, just prepared – a trait that helped her succeed as a deputy athletic director at Texas A&M Commerce and later as the top athletic administrator at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
A mile-long to-do list didn’t win her the job at Eastern, but it didn’t hurt.
A day after getting the full-time job, Hickey already checked off a couple of boxes.
On Thursday, Eastern not only filled an assistant coaching position for women’s soccer but closed a deal with Central Washington to open the football season on Sept. 1 at Roos Field.
“I feel she’s upped our game already,” said Eastern president Mary Cullinan, who on Wednesday removed the interim tag from Hickey’s job title and promoted her to Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics.
“We’re going to see some wonderful changes,” Cullinan said.
First come the challenges.
In the short term, Hickey must replace several employees. The most important are senior women’s administrator Pam Parks, who’s retiring; athletic performance director Amir Owens, who took a similar position at Washington State; and the entire volleyball coaching staff, two of whom were fired by Hickey last month.
That may be the easy part. Hickey’s biggest challenge will be fundraising. On-the-field success, especially in football, hasn’t translated into substantial capital improvements.
Those will take time. However, Cullinan and Angela Jones, Vice President for University Advancement, are planning some ambitious fundraising efforts.
Cullinan’s outlook is optimistic.
“We’re putting staff in place,” said Cullinan, noting the recent hire of Devon Thomas as part of Jones’ team.
“We’re launching a major plan,” Cullinan said. “Lynn is going to start building relationships, and not just local. We’re going to go around the state, where we have friends and alums and former student-athletes.”
Added Cullinan: “I expect to spend 50 percent of my time fundraising.”
However, in order to move forward, Hickey must first delve into the recent past: the failure of the Gateway Project and other proposals, and the $5.8 million cumulative budget deficit.
“We’re not going to be able to reduce it in one year,” Hickey said of the deficit. “That will be a multiyear plan.”
It’s the same for capital improvements, but Hickey has a long-term plan for that, too.
“We are going to put together a plan that actually starts at the ground level,” Hickey said Wednesday. “We’ve got to build that ground level so we can build up to those lead gifts.
By showing a plan (for major projects), when we can be that specific to our donors, we can be very successful,” Hickey said.