UAA hires Nevada administrator as athletic director

and BETH BRAGGSeptember 11, 2013 

UAA's new athletic director Keith Hackett


An administrator from the University of Nevada is UAA's pick to lead the Seawolves from strife to stability.

Keith Hackett, an associate athletic director for nine years at the Division I school, will be UAA's next athletic director, the school announced Wednesday.

Hackett replaces Steve Cobb, who was fired in May after 13 years as the head of UAA's 13-sport athletic department. He comes to the school after several tumultuous months during which UAA athletics was a lightning rod for controversy, much of it focused on Cobb and fired hockey coach Dave Shyiak.

UAA vice chancellor Bill Spindle said he believes Hackett can help repair the rift between UAA and the hockey community.

"There is a sense of relief,'' Spindle said. "We have to move on."

Hackett, who did not immediately return a phone message, will be in Anchorage next week for a press conference and a meet-and-greet with UAA fans and supporters. He begins the job Oct. 1.

"He's got a lot of experience, not only in the athletic business, but in all of higher education,'' Spindle said. "Everybody we talked to just loved the guy. He's good with relationships, he's good in the community. He really gets what the university is about.''

At Nevada, Hackett was in charge of the football, baseball and track/cross country programs. He was active in fundraising and cites on his resume successful efforts in helping to lure major donors to Nevada athletics, most recently in the form of a $150,000 gift for a new football locker room.

He has spent 36 years in higher education, in athletics and beyond. He worked as the dean of admissions and dean of students at Oklahoma City University, he was the provost at St. Gregory's University in Shawnee, Okla., and he was the director of that university's College for Working Adults in Tulsa. Early in his career, Hackett coached college football and baseball.

At UAA, Hackett will oversee a program that primarily competes in NCAA Division II. Hockey, gymnastics and skiing all compete at the Division I level.

The university used the Texas-based head-hunting firm of Eastman & Beaudine to find Hackett, who was one of five finalists.

Tim McDiffett, UAA's associate athletic director who served as interim AD since Cobb's firing, co-chaired the search committee with Spindle. He and Spindle conducted a three-hour, face-to-face interview with Hackett in Seattle.

"He was very personable and engaging,'' McDiffett said. "His passion for athletics, his warmth as a person, came through. We're in a people business, and he was the type of guy you immediately want to spend time with.''

Spindle said Bob Beaudine, CEO of the executive search firm, agreed Hackett was the right person to lead the Seawolves.

"Bob said, 'He's the best No. 2 man in the country -- he hasn't been an AD, but he's ready,' '' Spindle said.

Spindle lauded McDiffett for holding together the athletic department while it lacked a permanent leader. McDiffett said the department's staff deserves the credit.

"Actually, it's been a good thing in many ways,'' McDiffett said. "Our staff has really rallied. Sometimes, you see teams face adversity and come out the other end stronger, and I think we have. Not because of me, but because of a staff that has shouldered an extra load.''

Hackett will earn $155,000 a year, UAA said, a raise of 36.4 percent from Cobb's ending salary of $113,660.

Hackett's hiring came after several months of transition and trouble at UAA -- at one point, even Gov. Sean Parnell weighed in. Shyiak was fired in March after eight years as the hockey coach, and Cobb was fired two months later. Cobb had drawn the ire of hockey community near the end of his tenure, drawing criticism for not firing Shyiak earlier and for not including anyone with a hockey background on the search committee for a new coach.

After a new search committee was formed and Cobb was fired, UAA hired Matt Thomas, formerly of the ECHL'S Stockton Thunder, as the new hockey coach.

"I feel really good about where we're at,'' Spindle said. "I think we have some tremendous people to help us go forward.''

Thomas's starting salary of $150,000 is 16.7 percent higher than Shyiak's ending salary of $128,500. Between the new hockey coach and new athletic director, UAA will pay more than $60,000 annually in salaries this school year than last.

Hackett will be the eighth man to lead UAA athletics since the school started its intercollegiate athletic program in 1977.

Reach Beth Bragg at or 257-4335. Reach Doyle Woody at or 257-4335.

Big men on campus

Keith Hackett becomes the eighth man to serve as athletic director since UAA began intercollegiate athletics in 1977.

Bob Rachal 1977-78

Lew Haines 1978-80

Gene Templeton 1980-84

Ron Petro 1984-92

Tim Dillon 1992-98

Harry Larrabee 1998-00

Steve Cobb 2000-13

Keith Hackett 2013-


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