Two months after saying he was leaning against using a search firm to hire a new athletic director, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler has changed his mind.
Kathy Brown, the university’s vice president of human resources, strongly recommended using a search firm again Thursday in a Board of Regents audit committee presentation at McNamara Alumni Center.
Kaler agreed, even though the university used a search firm when it hired former AD Norwood Teague, who resigned in August after being cited for two sexual harassment complaints.
Kaler noted an external review by attorneys Karen Schanfield and Joseph Dixon “said that the search process was not the reason that we got a guy that turned out to behave very badly.”
But Kaler and Brown described other lessons learned from the Teague hiring — along with recent AD searches at Michigan and Illinois — as they outlined how they intend to make this search process better.
Kaler said he still plans to have the new athletic director in place by July 1. Beth Goetz stepped in as interim AD when Teague resigned and has yet to say she wants the job long-term.
“I am looking forward to what the candidate pool will be,” Kaler said.
“And if Beth becomes a candidate — she’s doing a very good job as the interim — then, if she comes out first out of a strong pool, that really strengthens her ability.”
Brown’s presentation was another step in the process, though it doesn’t require a Regents vote of approval. Kaler and the Regents will discuss her recommendations before coming forward publicly with a formal plan.
Explaining his expected timeline, Kaler said there would be a “two-week turnaround on an RFP [request for proposal] for a search firm, get them on board, get the [search] committee together — mid-March time frame.
“And then interview, develop candidates March-April. Interview late April-May and make a decision.”
The university paid Atlanta-based Parker Executive Search more than $112,000 in 2012 to assist with the search that led to Teague’s hiring. The school has paid Parker at least $285,000 since 2007 to find and vet candidates for key positions in athletics.
The school’s use of Parker drew criticism last August, when a gender discrimination complaint against Teague at Virginia Commonwealth surfaced only after his resignation at Minnesota.
“The majority of searches for the athletic director position in the Big Ten utilize search firms,” Brown said. “The two schools that most recently have done searches are Michigan and Illinois. Both have used search firms.
“Interestingly, both started thinking they would not and then moved to using search firms because they found their initial work without using search firms was not going very well.”
Asked if the university would consider using Parker again for this search, Brown said: “I would not rule any in or out at this point. We’ll wait for the RFP process to handle that.”
Beyond the search firm, Brown recommended using a search committee of seven to 12 members.
“The Schanfield-Dixon report did recommend that the previous committee [for Teague’s hiring] had been four [members], and that was too small,” Brown said.
Brown also recommended that the AD candidates sign “a written disclosure … of any formal or informal complaints involving NCAA violations, Title IX, Office of Civil Rights allegations, claims of discrimination or harassment.”
Kaler also said the university will use “more sophisticated interview techniques, some industrial psychology techniques that are best practice that I think will let us be sure we vet the candidates as thoroughly as we can.”
In December, Kaler said he was leaning against using a search firm because he felt more experienced as a president with more contacts in college athletics than he had when he hired Teague.
There’s also the cost. The university is allowed to spend up to $125,000 on a firm for this search, Kaler said.
“It’s a lot of money, and it’s not perfect,” Regent Richard Beeson said.
“But no matter what process we use to hire people, we know it’s not perfect. And I do think it would give us the strongest field of candidates both locally, here at the university or nationally.”