The search for just the right AD in the new college landscape |

As we’ve all witnessed over the last couple of decades, the face of college athletics has changed dramatically. As this article details, the role of the athletic director has changed as well. So when it’s time for a school to look for a new athletic director, many are now choosing alternate methods for finding just the right person.

Universities continue to turn to executive search firms to find new athletic directors. Eastman & Beaudine recently placed Michael Kelly as the new athletic director of the University of South Florida (USF). Mark Harlan stepped down from the post this spring.

“Michael Kelly is a proven leader with a wealth of experience across the national collegiate athletic landscape, as well as within Tampa Bay,” said Judy Genshaft, University of South Florida System president. “He has a track record of promoting competitive excellence, building strong community relationships, developing marketing campaigns, reaching fundraising goals and supporting academic achievement.”

“His future-focused vision and high moral character will ensure that our already strong USF Athletics program reaches new heights,” she said. “I look forward to all that USF and the Tampa Bay community will achieve under Michael’s leadership.”

Over the last quarter century, the sports sector has grown into a formidable global industry. Historically, professional sports teams operated on a relatively modest level, with league officials, team owners, managers, and coaches surrounding themselves with people they knew and trusted from their own small worlds. College sports teams relied on in-house search committees and word-of-mouth recommendations. Much of that has forever changed.

Athletic directors are playing an increasingly vital role at colleges and universities across the country. With the expansion of athletic departments and, for the larger schools, the infusion of big dollars for sports, more schools have turned to search firms when such positions become open. Too much is at stake, they feel, to go it alone. What’s more, the AD job has come to demand greater business and management skills than the typical academic search.

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