Monday, March 29, 2021

First-time ADs, ADs at their alma maters & women all rare but not entirely absent at Power 5 level

A bus passes in front of Strong Hall Nov. 16, 2015, on the University of Kansas campus.

A bus passes in front of Strong Hall Nov. 16, 2015, on the University of Kansas campus.


While the list of candidates to fill the University of Kansas’ vacant athletic director chair remains vast, there is reason to believe that at least a couple of KU grads are in the mix.

It’s still too early to know exactly which direction KU’s search committee is headed with the hire, but if that group, with an assist from powerhouse search firm TurnkeyZRG, elects to go with a former Jayhawk, it would put Kansas in the minority among Power 5 programs.

Of the 65 other Power 5 programs in Division I college athletics (including Notre Dame), just 15 sitting ADs graduated from the school that currently employs them — three of 10 in the Big 12, four of 14 in the Big Ten, four of 15 in the ACC, four of 14 in the SEC and none in the Pac-12.

That’s roughly 23%, with Northwestern joining KU in searching for its next athletic director.

Also of note, given the fact that the two most popular KU grads on the current list of candidates — former KU football player and Williams Fund director Banks Floodman and Deputy AD at Army Mike Harrity — have never been ADs is the fact that roughly 31% (20 of 65) of current Power 5 athletic directors got their first AD jobs at the Power 5 level.

While looking at the list of names and alma maters of the current Power 5 athletic directors, a couple of other things of note jumped out.

First, Notre Dame must have one heck of a program for sports administration. Seven of the 65 other AD offices are filled by Notre Dame graduates, by far the most of any university.

That includes Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick, who himself is a former golden domer. Arizona State was next with three sitting Power 5 ADs, while several schools produced two current Power 5 ADs, including Georgia, Wake Forest, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, West Virginia, Mississippi State and LSU.

While many of those, along with Notre Dame, are among the biggest and most prestigious universities in the country, a few small schools are also represented on the current list of Power 5 AD alma maters. Included among them are: Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the University of Puget Sound, Drake, Minnesota State-Mankato, Guilford College and nearby Ottawa University.

Also of note is the fact that the list includes people, men and women, who traveled a variety of paths to land in their current jobs.

As one might expect, many came up through the athletics administration ranks. But others came from private business, the coaching ranks, college and professional athletics and the legal world.

Currently, there are five women occupying the office of a Power 5 AD — Sandy Barbour at Penn State, Carla Williams at Virginia, Heather Lyke at Pittsburgh, Jennifer Cohen at Washington and Vanderbilt’s Candice Storey Lee, the most recent female added to the list who also is one of the 15 ADs leading his or her alma mater.

Janna Blais, previously the Deputy AD at Northwestern, also recently became the school’s interim AD as the Wildcats search for a new leader for their athletic department.

Storey Lee was hired by Vandy in 2020 and Lyke at Pitt in 2017. The three other women on the current list of Power 5 ADs all were hired by their current universities after 2014, although Barbour was also the AD at Cal from 2004-14 before moving to Penn State.

ADs leading their alma mater

• Chad Weiberg, Oklahoma State

• Joe Castiglione, Oklahoma (Masters)

• Shane Lyons, WVU

• Warde Manuel, Michigan

• Bill Beekman, Michigan State

• Josh Whitman, Illinois

• Scott Dolson, Indiana

• John Wildhack, Syracuse

• John Currie, Wake Forest

• Todd Stansbury, Georgia Tech

• Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame

• Candice Storey Lee, Vanderbilt

• Scott Woodward, LSU

• Keith Carter, Mississippi

• John Cohen, Mississippi State

Sitting ADs whose first AD job came at the Power 5 level

• Jamie Pollard, Iowa State

• Chad Weiberg, Oklahoma State

• Jeremiah Donati, TCU

• Shane Lyons, West Virginia

• Pat Hobbs, Rutgers

• Bill Beekman, Michigan State

• Scott Dolson, Indiana

• Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin

• Stan Wilcox, Florida State

• John Wildhack, Syracuse

• Vince Tyra, Louisville

• Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame

• Ray Anderson, Arizona State

• Rick George, Colorado

• Jennifer Cohen, Washington

• Rob Mullens, Oregon

• Candice Storey Lee, Vanderbilt

• Keith Carter, Mississippi

• Josh Brooks, Georgia

• Ray Tanner, NC State

Women ADs currently at Power 5 universities

• Jennifer Cohen, Washington

• Candice Storey Lee, Vanderbilt

• Heather Lyke, Pittsburgh

• Sandy Barbour, Penn State

• Carla Williams, Virginia

• Janna Blais (interim), Northwestern


Brett McCabe 3 weeks, 2 days ago

To me, 23% actually seems like a big number. I would have thought it would be smaller.

The challenge that KU is uniquely facing is a series of catastrophically bad decisions made over 10 years that have created the worst football program in America, and burned virtually every bit of goodwill that once existed with the fan base.

At the end of the day, we need an AD who can make one good decision. Beyond that, everything else is gravy.

I like the idea of Harrity and Monken. I like the idea of having a person of color leading the department, a guy from KCK and a guy with two KU degrees.

But, obviously, there are other capable people.

What we can’t have is more panic. Zenger panicked and hired a big name, and then panicked in hiring an unqualified recruiting guru from Texas. And Long panicked by hiring a big name and doing virtually no due diligence.

We need a real coach, with a proven system that he can recruit to and implement over time. It’s not that hard to find someone like that. We just make it look that way.

Dale Rogers 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Personally, I don't think race or gender should even be a factor. Chose the person who best fits our needs, without consideration of race or gender.

Jeff Coffman 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Zenger hired the mirror image of Jones by hiring Beaty.

Both were young assistants in Power 5 programs, that had success in High School and were recruiting Gurus. Both were WR coaches.

Dale Rogers 3 weeks, 1 day ago

We did ok with Roy Williams in a similar situation, on the basketball side. Every HC got his/her start somewhere.

Dale Rogers 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Matt - Might there be a typo in this: "four of 15 in the ACC, four of 14 in the ACC" ??

Dale Rogers 3 weeks, 1 day ago

14 in the ACC AND 15 in the ACC? Unless you're counting the 14 as basketball and the 15 as football?

Matt Tait 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Missed it twice. Thanks. Appreciate you catching it. Fixed now!

Rodney Schulz 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Are any of the candidates former athletes as an undergraduate at a power five school and then followed it up with an MBA or other quantitative and analytical graduate degree from one of the 10 best programs in the country, programs such as Dartmouth, Northwestern, Stanford, Harvard, Duke, Penn or Cornell? What about Tier 1b schools for a graduate degree, schools like Virginia or Notre Dame?

One of the biggest problems with athletic directors is that they are running complex big businesses with a small cerebral toolbox and a marginal education.

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