The University of Minnesota’s search for a new athletic director appears to be down to four candidates — interim AD Beth Goetz, Northern Illinois AD Sean Frazier, Penn State deputy AD Phil Esten and one undisclosed applicant — according to people familiar with the search.

University President Eric Kaler and four members of the 16-member search committee have been conducting interviews with candidates in the Twin Cities this week.

Two sources familiar with the search believe Kaler could have his preferred candidate picked within a few days, with an official hiring made by May 23 or perhaps sooner.

Kaler and Turnkey Search have declined to comment until the new AD is named, and all members of the search committee signed confidentiality agreements. Multiple sources spoke to the Star Tribune for this story on the condition of anonymity, so they could remain close to the search.

The three known candidates — Goetz, Frazier and Esten — have all declined to comment on their interest in the job to the Star Tribune during the search.

Several candidates who were vetted by Turnkey in the initial phases of the search have yet to be contacted for formal job interviews, according to people familiar with their situations. That list includes former Gophers football standouts Pete Najarian and Bob Stein, Iowa deputy AD Gene Taylor, Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson, WCHA Commissioner Bill Robertson and U.S. Bank senior vice president David Gutzke.

Besides Kaler, the four people believed to be interviewing candidates are the two search committee chairs — Katrice Albert, the University’s vice president for equity and diversity, and Perry Leo, the school’s faculty athletics representative — along with Deborah Olson, the retired CEO and chair of Nelson Laboratories, and Kevin Warren, the Vikings’ chief operating officer.

Goetz, 41, has drawn praise from inside the university since becoming interim AD when Norwood Teague resigned last August. A St. Louis native who played soccer at Clemson, Goetz began her career as a soccer coach and administrator at Missouri-St. Louis. She worked as a senior woman administrator at Butler before coming to Minnesota as deputy AD in March of 2013.

Frazier, 47, was a finalist for the Rutgers AD position before taking the Northern Illinois job and has since drawn interest for AD posts at Pittsburgh and Illinois. The Long Island, N.Y., native and former Alabama football player was the deputy AD under Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin and served as the chair of the NCAA men’s hockey committee in 2011. Frazier also served as the AD at Manhattanville, Merrimack and Clarkson.

Esten, 43, spent six years as associate AD at Minnesota before becoming deputy AD at California-Berkeley. In 2014, he took the deputy job at Penn State under Sandy Barbour, who’d also hired him at Cal. Esten played a key role in the fundraising for TCF Bank Stadium and later worked as president and CEO of the university’s alumni association. The La Crosse, Wis., native got his doctorate in kinesiology from Minnesota.


Staff writer Amelia Rayno contributed to this report.