With Penn looking for its new athletic director, it is time to call in the consultants.

After naming a 14-person search committee to find a replacement for Steve Bilsky — who is retiring effective June 30 — Provost Vincent Price told The Daily Pennsylvanian last week that Penn has begun looking for a consultant firm to help the search move forward.

“Like all of our searches, we’ll start with a process of consultation,” Price said. “We’ll be gathering ideas from around the campus community, helping refine our thinking about what people view as the biggest opportunities and challenges for Penn Athletics.

“That process will go on for the next month and a half or so and will absolutely inform the way we approach the search.”

By hiring an outside firm, the University will be able to keep its search out of the limelight, turning to another group to help come up with candidates that fit the school while helping to inform the decision of the 14-person committee.

“These processes work best when there is a lot of information that flows into the committee and no information that flows out,” Price said. “So we have at our disposal a good sense of what the community wants and needs to inform our process, but we don’t let that trip us up when recruiting the best candidate.”

With multiple dean searches going on, the University will be conducting the AD search in a similar fashion, albeit with the possibility of more outside interest in this particular search.

“We do this with all high level searches,” Price said. “The consultants, we evaluate them on their experience. We do a lot of referencing to know what searches have happened recently.”

One recent search that came to an end was at Virginia Tech, where the university hired Todd Turner, a former athletic director in the NCAA, to head its process.

Yet while Turner’s firm, Collegiate Sports Associates, has worked on many national AD searches, Penn may be looking for a firm with more experience within the Ivy League. Among Price’s hopes for the consultants is that the firm will work hard to understand Penn.

While Penn is in the beginning stages of its search for a new athletic director, rival Princeton is much further along in the process, having begun this fall.

And unlike Penn, the Garden State Ivy decided not to hire a search firm to assist in the process, going for a more open search. Princeton has had multiple open forums to get input from students, faculty and alumni.

But with Princeton going with a public process, the process is also moving slowly. And with Penn going to an outside consulting group —which can alleviate the day-to-day work and help narrow the field of candidates — the University could find its new AD in much less time.

With whatever firm Penn hires, the outside group will also be able to provide Penn with not just prospective candidates but also background checks and other verification to assist the committee in the important process.

So for now, let the consultation begin.


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