The last time the University at Buffalo sought an athletic director it met with a tepid response. The Corrigan Report had questioned the university's commitment to athletics. UB sports teams were finding rough going in the Mid-American Conference. Uncertainties and daunting challenges suppressed the position's allure.
Eight years later, UB finds its reputation enhanced by its accomplishments under departed AD Warde Manuel. There is no shortage of qualified candidates seeking to replace the man who oversaw a pronounced upswing in UB's athletic fortunes that included a MAC football championship.
"All I can tell you about the pool to date is that the search committee is extremely pleased by the national response to the UB opportunity and the strong quality of the applicant pool," said Dennis R. Black, vice president for university life and services and co-chairperson of the AD search committee. "We've sort of established a better place in the MAC. We've had some championship success in a number of different sports. We're over the 'Are we really in athletics or not' scenario. Obviously Warde as a campus presence, as a league presence and as a national presence, helped raise our profile."
In addition to entertaining applications, UB enlisted Parker Executive Search to help identify and gauge the interest of potential candidates.
"I can't speak about our search, but certainly a traditional search is going to have 50 to 75 qualified candidates," Black said. "That's going to get screened down to a dozen who are going to go through an interview process, and that dozen is going to get screened down to four or less as finalists."
UB president Satish K. Tripathi challenged the search committee to provide a list of finalists by commencement on May 13. Black said the committee will come reasonably close to meeting that goal, an indication that it's in the process of interviewing a dozen or so to determine the final four.
"Our charge is to provide a short list of potential finalists to the president," Black said. "The search committee is not picking an AD or actually ranking the finalists. We're just giving the president a short list to work with, with an analysis of candidates' background, experience, strengths, any issues of concern."
UB will not release the names of candidates, including the finalists.
"The search itself remains confidential and quite frankly that's in large part of the fact the position is now attracting candidates who have positions that would be at risk if there interest was known," Black said. "And again, that was not the case in some of our past AD searches."
Members of the 15-person search committee solicited input from faculty leadership, student-athletes, the Intercollegiate Athletic Board, senior athletics staff, coaches, all athletic department employees and past chairs of AD searches to develop a sketch of the ideal candidate. The committee is co-chaired by Francis M. Letro, vice chairman of the UB Foundation. Members are: Jim D. Atwood, professor of chemistry, faculty athletics representative; Laura J. Barnum, senior assistant vice president/academic planning and budget; Russ Brandon, chief executive officer, Buffalo Bills; Anucha Browne-Sanders, senior associate AD and senior woman administrator; Jonathan Dandes, president of Rich Baseball Operations and member UB Council; Edmond Gicewicz, former UB athlete, retired physician and member of the UB council.
Also, Laura E. Hubbard, vice president for finance and administration; Tim Lafferty, national sales manager, The PCA Group and president of the UB Alumni Association; Alex Neutz, management major and football player; Abby Niekamp, arts and sciences major and women's volleyball player; Kathy Twist, head coach, women's tennis; A. Scott Weber, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering; Reggie Witherspoon, head coach, men's basketball.
The expectation is that a new AD will be named within the next six weeks.
"We've brought on two new vice presidents this spring, we have a new provost who's joining of us shortly," Black said. "This is sort of the last key leadership position to complete his leadership team. [The president's] looking to have his team in place and working together as quickly as possible."
The future of women's basketball coach Linda Hill-MacDonald will be determined by the new athletic director, interim AD John Lambert reiterated on Tuesday. Hill-MacDonald hasn't had a winning season in seven years at UB and her contract expires before the beginning of next season. The Bulls went 9-22 last year and have been at least eight games under .500 in five of Hill-MacDonald's seven seasons.