The search to find Penn Athletic Director Steve Bilsky’s successor is officially underway.
Provost Vincent Price announced the formation of an athletic director advisory committee to select Bilsky’s successor Wednesday. President Amy Gutmann announced Bilsky’s decision to retire effective June 30 after 20 years as athletic director on Nov. 21. Gutmann also confirmed to The Daily Pennsylvanian that, as expected, Bilsky’s successor will be announced this semester.
The 14-member advisory committee, assembled by the Office of the Provost, will be chaired by Price and co-chaired by Penn Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli. The committee consists of five administrators, two coaches, two alumni, two faculty members, one student-athlete, one graduate student and one University attorney.
The group includes women’s lacrosse coach Karin Brower Corbett, men’s soccer coach Rudy Fuller and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee President Kathryn Barth, who have combined to win 11 Ivy League championships as coaches and player at Penn, respectively.
However, such successes have often passed without igniting strong student attendance or interest in Penn Athletics, a concern that Bilsky has expressed in his final year as athletic director and which Price shares.
“I think that through the identification of strong talent, creative communications with our own students [and] working closely with student life, there are many means by which we can elevate the visibility of athletics on the Penn campus,” Price said.
Until then, making the ideal next Penn athletic director visible will be what matters most to Price and his advisory committee.
Price also announced that all nominations and applications for the position will be accepted by his office until Feb. 28.
“We’re interested in people who can bring a wide range of perspectives,” Price said. “One of the things the consultative committee will be doing is working with me to consult broadly across the community.”
Price said that there will be multiple full-committee meetings this semester, possibly via conference call if necessary.
“The committee will be engaged in refining the process, so I hesitate to lay out a defined plan at this point,” Price said.
According to Price though, the committee will have to determine what characteristics it wants to see in Penn’s next athletic director before focusing on specific candidates for the position.
“I’ll work out that schedule with the committee and with consultants,” Price said of the expected transition from identifying desired characteristics to identifying desired candidates. “We will not make that timing public.
“These searches are best conducted with lots of public input, but in a way that maintains good confidentiality. We do not want to chase appealing candidates away.”
Price also said that the committee will be looking for candidates with a previous record of experience that makes its members comfortable with the new director’s ability to recruit talent and work cooperatively with other administrators.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to take advantage of what we’ve been able to do over the course of the last decade in creating Penn Park and Weiss Pavilion and renovating the Palestra,” Gutmann said of the Penn athletic director position.
But how the Penn community will be able to weigh in on the search for Bilsky’s successor remains to be seen and will be determined by the advisory committee. A comparable search is ongoing at Princeton to replace Athletic Director Gary Walters, who announced in September that he will step down at the end of June 2014, the same time as Bilsky. The Princeton Athletic Director Search Committee held three open forum dates in October and November in which members of the Tigers community were invited to weigh in on the search.
“We can certainly expect consultation from and with the community,” Price said. “Whether they take [the form of an open forum] remains to be determined in consultation with the committee itself, in terms of managing our time most effectively.”
Price also said that the advisory committee will work with a non-member professional search consultant as well.
“It’s an iterative process,” he said.
Once the committee has identified its top candidates, however, it can be expected to be aggressive in pursuing them.
“A passive search for such an important position is ill-advised. We will be reaching out to candidates,” Price said. “I have no doubt given the stature of this position and the tremendous work of Penn Athletics up to this point that we will absolutely have people reaching out to us.
“But we are not a mere recipient of interest. We’re actively developing a talent pool the most we can by way of identifying the most effective successor to Steve Bilsky.”
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