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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


In search for new AD, Arizona brings in familiar faces

Courtesy Arizona Athletics

Kathleen “Rocky” LaRose (L) and Cedric Dempsey (R) will be assisting in the search for the new Arizona athletics director. 

The UA wants to keep the process of hiring a new athletic director as simple as possible.

Arizona has hired former Athletic Director Cedric Dempsey and former Deputy Athletic Director Kathleen “Rocky” LaRose to assist UA President Ann Weaver Hart in the search process for a new athletic director. The announcement comes on the heels of Greg Byrne’s departure, who served as athletic director from 2010 to 2017.

Dempsey was responsible for hiring legendary coaches Lute Olson and Mike Candrea during his tenure, and LaRose was the first woman in history to be in charge of Division I basketball and football programs.

While some schools hire firms to help make the transition as smooth as possible, Hart is trying to hire someone as soon as possible.

“I will oversee the search and selection of the successful candidate with the participation of many others on an advisory basis,” Hart said via email. “This is the optimal time in intercollegiate athletics to recruit the most promising candidates, and it’s important to take full advantage of this time frame and move very quickly. “

When it was announced that Byrne was vacating his position as athletic director to take over the same role at the University of Alabama, it came as a surprise.

It was not a surprise in the sense that Byrne was an unexpected choice but because of how quiet the entire process remained until the very end.

During his tenure at Arizona, Byrne helped the athletics program increase its budget, hired Rich Rodriguez and set up the $72 million renovation to the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility.

Reports of the University of Florida targeting Byrne surfaced after longtime Florida Athletics Director Jeremy Foley retired last summer.

The possibility of Byrne taking the job at Florida was reported throughout the media, even though the process was supposed to stay under wraps. Byrne likely knew that having his name surrounding a potential hire in Gainesville would bolster the chances for his dream job at the University of Alabama.

The searches for new athletic directors at Florida and Alabama could not have been handled more differently.

Alabama elected to use the search firm “Turnkey Search” to assist their athletics department in hiring Byrne. Florida elected not to use a search firm and conduct the search similar to the way Arizona is preparing to do so.

At Florida, many names were floated as the potential new hire before they finally settled on Scott Stricklin, Byrne’s replacement as athletics director at Mississippi State University. Alabama was able to keep the entire process quiet, and the move to Byrne was swift and controlled.

By hiring two former athletics administrators, Arizona believes they are ready to handle every aspect of the hiring process on their own.

Dealing with the media is vital to this process. Florida was unable to keep stories out of the media that reported potential candidates for the vacancy, while Alabama secretly met with Byrne in New York under the guise of the College Football Hall of Fame banquet.

Alabama’s hiring has been widely viewed as a success, and University of Tennessee was quick to hire Turnkey Search for their own athletic director search.

Arizona is taking a risk by handling the process on their own, but believe they have brought in the big guns with Dempsey and LaRose, who are

both responsible for the rise of the athletics program at the UA over the past 25 years.

With the football program in turmoil, Arizona is on the clock to find the right person to turn around the Wildcats’ biggest moneymaker.

Follow Christopher Deak on Twitter 

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