MINNEAPOLIS — University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler on Tuesday introduced a 21-member search advisory committee and four-member search committee that will help find the university’s next athletic director. Those two committees will work with Parker Executive Search, a national search firm.
“Our goal is to have an inclusive process that helps us attract the very best candidate in the nation. To do that, we plan to engage a variety of stakeholders and diverse viewpoints,” Kaler said Tuesday. “A strong and diverse athletics program committed to academic and competitive success is important to the University of Minnesota. As a public window to the U, Gopher athletics connects students, alumni, faculty, staff and the community to this great institution.”
The committee is looking for the replacement for current athletic director Joel Maturi, who will retire when his contract expires June 30. Kaler said he and the committee plan to have the finalists narrowed down well before then, with the goal of selecting the new AD by early May.
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“These searches have a pretty quick timeline,” Kaler said. “We hope to be able to name a person in late April, early May and have that person in place July 1 when Joel steps down.”
The four-member search committee consists of R. Timothy Mulcahy, vice president for research at the University of Minnesota; Mary Jo Kane, director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport; Amy Phenix, chief of staff, Office of the President at the University of Minnesota; and John E. Lindahl, managing general partner at Norwest Equity Partners.
Kane was also a member of the committee that hired Maturi 10 years ago. A lot has changed since then, she said.
“One thing that’s happened over the course of the last 10 years has been, in my view, the explosion of social media,” Kane said Tuesday. “That puts us in an entirely different universe of how to communicate but also frankly how to be very respectful of sitting ADs that you have to respect their privacy.”
Kaler said he had a list of names in his head that he felt would be good candidates for Minnesota’s next AD, but he wouldn’t divulge them at Tuesday’s press conference. Kaler would only say that he will work with the search committee and search advisory committee as the process moves forward.
Kaler was also asked what he thought of Jim Fiore, the current director of athletics at Stony Brook University. Fiore’s name has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Minnesota job.
When pressed on the matter, Kaler’s answer was short.
“Jim Fiore is a good friend of mine,” he said.
Though Fiore is one current athletic director who could perhaps transition easily into the same role at Minnesota, Kaler said it’s not essential that the school’s new AD be chosen from a list of current ADs.
“I’d be real comfortable with someone with that sitting AD experience, but I’m open to qualified candidates from really a wide range of backgrounds,” Kaler said. “It’s going to be a matter of the right fit, the right background and right personal values. If that’s in a sitting AD, great. If that’s someone else, we’ll take them.”
Kaler said the university will spend approximately $100,000 on the search firm. Once the new athletic director is hired, Minnesota will have to dole out more money for the new AD’s salary.
According to a database put together by USA Today, current Minnesota AD Joel Maturi earned $451,900 in 2011. That put him in the middle of the pack in comparison with other Big Ten athletic directors. Nebraska’s Tom Osborne earned the least in 2011 ($321,538), while Ohio State’s Gene Smith made just over $1 million as the conference’s highest-paid AD.
Kaler said Minnesota’s new AD will again fall somewhere in the middle.
“I expect we’re going to have to pay Big Ten market value,” Kaler said. “I expect us to be in the mid range for that to be competitive.”
Among those on the search advisory committee are current Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray, former basketball star Quincy Lewis, men’s hockey coach Don Lucia and former Gophers and North Stars player Lou Nanne.
Others on the 21-member search advisory committee were chosen from faculty and academic leadership, athletic staff and community members. With such a large number of members from a broad background, it seems as if it might be difficult for all 21 to agree on the next AD. But Kaler is confident that the search advisory committee can come together to help chose Minnesota’s next athletic director.
“I think broadly speaking, there will be a consensus about the qualities that the new person should have,” Kaler said. “I think the committee might have different points of view about how we get there, what the best skill set and background for that person should be.”