Tony | The clock is ticking for Penn's athletic director search
January 27, 2014, 7:11 pm · Updated January 28, 2014, 12:14 am·
Julia Ahn | DP
How the search to find Penn Athletic Director Steve Bilsky’s successor will play out over the course of this semester is anyone’s guess. But what’s troubling is that we’re still playing the guessing game in the first place.
Bilsky announced he would retire effective June 30 back on Nov. 21. Then Thanksgiving Break happened. Then nothing happened.
On Dec. 9, Leo Charney, a spokesperson for Penn Provost Vincent Price, told The Daily Pennsylvanian that there would be an announcement soon about the formation of an advisory committee for the athletic director search. Then nothing happened. Then Winter Break happened.
And finally, on Jan. 15, Price announced the formation of a 14-member advisory committee co-chaired by himself and Penn Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli.
If you’re keeping score, that’s eight weeks separating Bilsky’s goodbye and the proclamation of a plan to replace him. That’s too long and too problematic for whoever turns out to be Bilsky’s successor, because if the future of Penn Athletics starts now, why is it taking so long to arrive?
The next athletic director needs to be in place sooner rather than later if he or she hopes to have agency over the future of Penn’s winter and spring varsity sports. The future of coach Jerome Allen looms large for all Penn basketball supporters, and the decision on whether to give a vote of confidence to Allen should rest squarely with the next athletic director, who should therefore be hired soon enough to observe the team in conference play and determine whether or not Allen should stay.
It would also benefit the next athletic director greatly to evaluate the rest of the winter and spring sports firsthand as well — not to be able to enact sweeping changes, but to simply measure what’s best for Penn Athletics going forward before Penn’s varsity schedules for this academic year are all but over.
That’s almost certainly not going to happen now.
Nominations and applications for the position will be accepted by the Office of the Provost until Feb. 28. Tack a thorough vetting period onto the end of that deadline, and you’re looking at the end of spring break, which lasts from March 8-16. Suddenly, St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t seem so lucky.
Texas had the right idea with its recent athletic director succession. Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds announced on Oct. 13 that he’d be stepping down effective Aug. 31, 2014. By Oct. 14, a committee was in place to hire his successor. By Nov. 5, his successor, Steve Patterson, was hired and given full authority to decide how to approach struggling signature coaches like football coach Mack Brown.
Likewise, Princeton Athletic Director Gary Walters announced that he would retire at the conclusion of the 2013-14 academic year on Sept. 4. It took Princeton just 12 days to announce a 12-member committee to conduct the search for Walters’ successor.
So it shouldn’t have taken nearly as long as it did for Penn to identify folks within its community who deserve to be guaranteed a voice in this crucial vetting process and reach out to them. It’s true that the advisory committee that Price ultimately came up with is a fair and balanced one, a commendable mix of administrators, coaches, alumni, students and faculty. But that doesn’t excuse the wait.
And while Princeton may not have chosen Walters’ replacement yet, at least transparency is on the Tigers’ side. Princeton held three on-campus open forums inviting comments and suggestions about its athletic director search in October and November, and that kind of transparency is crucial. Princeton even has a website designed solely for the purpose of distributing information about its search process.
Price didn’t rule out open forums when I spoke with him earlier this month, but I don’t expect committee members to push hard enough for them specifically. That’s a shame.
And yet this search is in good hands with Price. He said last month that Penn will be reaching out proactively to candidates, and you can bet that Price is going to be diligent in this process. If you’re rooting for a successful search, thoughtfulness and thoroughness are on your side with Price at the helm.
Time isn’t, though. Advisory committee, you’re on the clock.
MIKE TONY is a senior English and history major from Uniontown, Pa, and is a senior staff writer for The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at email@example.com.