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Eastern Washington athletic director candidate Lynn Hickey talks funding, facilities, future in public forum

Lynn Hickey is one of two finalists for the Eastern Washington athletic director position (UTSA / Courtesy)
Lynn Hickey is one of two finalists for the Eastern Washington athletic director position (UTSA / Courtesy)

Lynn Hickey has a resume as big as Texas.

For better than four decades, she’s coached big-time women’s basketball, helped lead the athletic department at one of the biggest schools in the land, then built another tradition from the ground up.

Now Hickey wants to do the same at Eastern Washington, where she has been the interim athletic director for 10 weeks.

Cheney is a long way from Texas, but Hickey said Thursday evening that “after two weeks, this place kind of grabbed my heart.”

“I felt comfortable with the fit I could offer, but also the future,” Hickey said during a public forum at EWU’s Spokane campus.

Her vision for the future of Eastern athletics was the focus of a 40-minute presentation witnessed by an enthusiastic gathering of two dozen.

After recapping her outsized qualifications – two decades as a basketball coach at Kansas State and Texas A&M, followed by athletic administration at A&M and Texas San Antonio – she focused on the future at Eastern.

Whether or not that future includes Hickey will be decided next week.

School president Mary Cullinan – who hired her as interim A.D. in January – will choose between Hickey and the other finalist, Utah Valley athletic director Vince Otoupal.

Ten weeks on the job have given Hickey the inside track, and she did nothing to relinquish the advantage on Thursday.

Like Otoupal, she talked about the big picture – improving fundraising, dominating in the Big Sky Conference and the need to improve athletic facilities – but she also offered more details than her rival could hope to do.

Hickey even distributed a full page detailing her “90-day Impact Plan,” an ambitious to-do list to lay the groundwork for the future.

Hickey praised Eastern’s success on the field and in the classroom, but quickly ditched the hyperbole by cautioning that “this is an athletic department that in some ways has hit a ceiling” while rival schools have improved their infrastructure.

Hickey said she was surprised that football scholarships are not fully funded during the summer (“when players get bigger and stronger”), and made it clear that the entire department needs more funding.

“The operating budget needs to go up by $4 to 5 million,” said Hickey, who would devote those funds to “student-athlete welfare and being at a competitive level in the Big Sky.”

She also had a ready answer for those who doubt the administration’s commitment to athletics.

“I would not move here, and move my husband here, if I didn’t think we had an administration that would work with us,” said Hickey, who added that Cullinan has expressed her support for athletics in front of a group of professors.

“For a president to say that … that was very bold, very courageous,” Hickey said.

Hickey also expressed confidence that athletics will be near the top of a capital campaign that is just now unfolding.

She expects to be part of the hard work of fundraising.

“We’ve got to come up with a plan, and design a business plan…. and we can do this in a short amount of time,” Hickey said.

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