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Eastern Washington initiates the search for a new athletic director

UPDATED: Mon., Feb. 5, 2018, 5:43 p.m.

Eastern Washington University President Mary Cullinan has Provost Scott Gordon and Board of Trustee member and retired judge James Murphy as co-chairmen of the search committee to hire an athletic director. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Eastern Washington University President Mary Cullinan has Provost Scott Gordon and Board of Trustee member and retired judge James Murphy as co-chairmen of the search committee to hire an athletic director. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The help-wanted ad went up last week on the Eastern Washington University web site.

Two-thirds of the way down the list – just below ads for a custodian and food service manager – is the intriguing title of “Director of Intercollegiate Athletics.”

The first requirements are a valid driver’s license and a bachelor’s degree, but it ramps up quickly from there.

Among other things, candidates must have “progressive leadership responsibility in intercollegiate athletics, long-term strategic planning, proven fiscal and personnel management skills, and illustrated success in athletic fundraising.”

That will certainly narrow the application list, but the school nevertheless expects a “tremendous number of highly qualified candidates,” Provost Scott Gordon predicted.

“What Eastern has to offer is just amazing,” said Gordon, who is co-chairing the search committee with Board of Trustee member and retired judge James Murphy.

“It’s going to be an exciting search,” Gordon said.

The work has already begun. During a meeting with athletic department staffers, Murphy heard recommendations to hire a candidate “who communicates well and is open to communication from coaches and staffers.”

“They also want to see some sort of entrepreneurial experience,” Murphy said.

Indeed, among the duties are to “provide visionary leadership, strategic planning, policy development and budget management.”

The public also will have a chance to weigh in. Several forums are scheduled for later this month, including one after the men’s basketball game against Montana on Feb. 15.

The 15-member search committee will begin holding meetings the following week; applications will be accepted through April 2.

By April 9, Gordon and Murphy hope to narrow the field to three or four finalists, whose campus visits will also include public forums.

“Those are pretty solid dates,” Murphy said. “After that it gets fuzzier.”

University president Mary Cullinan could name a successor to Bill Chaves as early as late April.

Chaves, who led Eastern athletics for 10 ½ years, resigned last month to take a similar job at the University of North Dakota.

Lynn Hickey, the athletic director at the University of Texas, San Antonio for 18 years until stepping down last fall, recently was appointed by Cullinan as interim AD.

Hickey, who will arrive in Cheney on Feb. 12, has not ruled out interest in the permanent position.

Given Eastern’s record of success on the field, Gordon and Murphy expect a diverse field of candidates.

Speaking of fans, Murphy said “I think they want someone who offers the prospect of excellence. The fact that we had a national championship in 2010 lingers in people’s minds.”

“We want to get an AD who fosters that kind of goal,” Murphy said.

Gordon and Murphy expect the candidates’ pool to run the gamut, including athletic directors at smaller schools and other FCS institutions, as well as associate ADs from FBS programs.

Under preferred qualifications, the job posting states that “preference will be given to candidates with Division I/IAA experience.”

In comparing candidates, Murphy said that “in looking at associate ADs from larger schools, you just need to look at the depth of what they’ve done.”