UAA hopes to have a new athletic director on board by end of August

Doyle Woody

UAA will likely hire its new athletic director by the end of August, about the same time fall classes begin, and the expedited search will grant confidentiality to finalists in order to attract a bigger, deeper field, vice chancellor Bill Spindle said Wednesday night.

Spindle, who co-chairs the search committee being aided by a nationally known firm that specializes in placing coaches and sports administrators, said confidentiality is necessary because candidates undoubtedly do not want their present employers to know they are looking at a new gig.

"They do not want it to be known they were even interested, if they don't get it,'' Spindle said.

UAA is being helped by Eastman and Beaudine, a Texas firm that Spindle said the university is paying $50,000.

The UAA job became open when Steve Cobb was fired May 29 after 13 years on the job. UAA sports, the majority of which compete in Division II, largely flourished under Cobb, with an abundance of championships, All-America performances and Academic All-American honors. Still, he came under increasing criticism in the community during a tumultuous search process to replace fired hockey coach Dave Shyiak and endured political heat too -- Governor Sean Parnell at one point wrote to University of Alaska president Patrick Gamble to prompt action -- before Chancellor Tom Case dismissed him.

The Seawolves' Division I hockey team has long struggled -- its 20 consecutive losing seasons mark the longest such active skid in Division I.

Spindle earlier this summer oversaw the hiring of Matt Thomas to replace Shyiak. Thomas received a five-year contract with an annual base salary of $150,000, compared to the $128,500 base salary Shyiak earned in his eighth and final season.

Before Thomas was hired, Spindle indicated UAA was willing to up the ante to lure a coach who could turn around the school's faltering hockey program. Wednesday night, Spindle indicated that could be the same case in determining the salary of the next athletic director. Cobb made $113,660 annually.

"We're going to see what the market is demanding and get the right person for the program, and pay them appropriately,'' Spindle said.

Wednesday marked the last day to apply for the job as athletic director.

Spindle said the search committee will review job applicants through the first half of August, then determine finalists -- perhaps four to six of them, he said -- and interview them in person at an undisclosed location.

UAA on Wednesday night held a sparsely-attended public forum to give folks a chance to tell the search committee what qualities they would like to see in Cobb's replacement. Only four of the less than a dozen people in attendance addressed the committee.

Terry Homan, the former UAA ticket manager who said she worked for five athletic directors at the school, listed several qualities she believes essential for the next head of Seawolves athletics -- solid knowledge of NCAA rules; having a finger on the pulse of all the school's teams; integrity with staff, athletes and the community; being active in the community; and a desire to be in Alaska and promote UAA.

Jeff Campbell of the Seawolf Athletic Association, who described himself as a supporter of the Great Alaska Shootout and a volleyball fan, said he would appreciate an athletic director who can oversee the school's 11 sports and their competing interests.

"I want to see an athletic director who effectively balance all those priorities,'' Campbell said.

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