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New athletic director search under way at UM
The objective is to have a permanent athletic director in place at the University of Montana by the start of the fall semester.
“We’ll have to work hard to get that done,” UM President Royce Engstrom told the Missoulian on Wednesday, “but that’s our goal.”
Engstrom met with a newly formed search advisory committee for the first time on Tuesday afternoon. The committee is not set in stone so he’s holding off on introducing its members. His plan is to issue a statement “probably within a few days.”
Under scrutiny for its handling of sexual assault allegations involving athletes, the University of Montana fired both athletic director Jim O’Day and football coach Robin Pflugrad on March 29. O’Day, who was in his eighth year as AD, was replaced on an interim basis by Jean Gee. She also serves as senior women’s administrator.
Engstrom said he was encouraged by Tuesday’s meeting with his AD search committee.
“We had a really good beginning discussion about position description and the process that we will follow,” said the president, who will make the final decision on the hire. “We had an informal discussion on characteristics we want to see in an athletic director. We also had a little discussion on adding a few more members to the search committee to make sure we have all the people we need.”
Asked if it’s important Montana hire a high-profile candidate for its highly successful athletic program, Engstrom said it’s not an “overriding characteristic.” He’s more interested in finding a person who “shares the values of Grizzly athletics and the university” and has the work ethic and personal characteristics to help the program be an even better model.
“We are looking for a person who will take Grizzly athletics to a higher level of excellence than it already is,” he said. “By excellence I mean on the playing field and court, excellence in the classroom for our student-athletes and excellence in the community for the representatives of Grizzly athletics.”
Engstrom likes the direction UM athletics is headed. He’s confident the new AD will inherit a strong program, top to bottom.
“I’m currently in Bozeman at a meeting of the Big Sky Conference presidents and I can tell you that the University of Montana athletics program is clearly one that is highly respected by all of the Big Sky presidents,” he said. “We have great strength in our athletic program from so many perspectives.
“The next athletic director will be able to make it even better.”
The search committee will set up campus interviews this summer for a small number of finalists for the AD post. After that the committee will advise Engstrom on the strengths of the candidates.
Just as in the past, the athletic director will report to Engstrom. The AD will also serve on the 15-member president’s cabinet and will meet with Engstrom on a weekly basis.
Prospective candidates have already approached Engstrom about the job. So have headhunters who want to help with the search.
The University of Montana’s fall semester will begin on Aug. 27.
By BILL SPELTZ of the Missoulian