Don’t expect the University of Miami to name a new athletic director to replace Shawn Eichorst for quite a while, perhaps months – even if the one eventually chosen is interim athletic director Blake James.
“The University of Miami has not started a search,” UM spokesperson Margot Winick said Wednesday. “We have no plans to hire a [search] firm.”
The Hurricanes will be seeking their third athletic director since long-serving Paul Dee, who died in May, stepped down from his post in 2008. Eichorst, who replaced Kirby Hocutt (now at Texas Tech) in April 2011, bolted UM without warning to accept the AD job at Nebraska last Thursday.
Miami likely will wait until it learns more specifically what it faces in its pending NCAA case before it names a permanent replacement for Eichorst, who will make $973,000 at Nebraska – believed to be at least twice as much as he earned at UM.
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“We have to find out what the end result will be with that before we know what the ongoing situation is going to be with an athletic director,” longtime UM trustee Art Hertz said Wednesday. “What guy is going to cast his future without knowing exactly what the situation is and how deep the hole is?’’
PENDING NCAA ALLEGATIONS
The Hurricanes are still awaiting the NCAA’s notice of allegations, which will address the rules UM is alleged to have broken in the case involving former booster Nevin Shapiro. The letter, which is mailed, is expected by the end of the year.
“I’m not in a huge hurry,” UM president Donna Shalala said, regarding the time frame for a hire, during a WQAM radio interview at halftime of Saturday’s UM-Notre Dame football game. “It’s not like it’s not an attractive job. But I want to step back a little and listen to our supporters and fans and see what they have to say about the kind of person we should be searching for.”
Shalala was asked if there was sentiment for somebody with Florida ties that understands the unique community.
“Absolutely,” she answered. “That’s what I’m hearing initially.”
Shalala said she wants “to involve all the head coaches.”
Football coach Al Golden told The Miami Herald on Tuesday that he would like “somebody that’s committed to not only the university but the South Florida community and wants to be here for the long term. Because of our success in the past, we want short-term solutions for long-term issues, and that’s a cycle we need to break.
“The way you break it is by just doggedly pursuing your goals and your mission every day over a long period of time.”
Women’s tennis coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews, whose father is in the UM Sports Hall of Fame and who has turned UM into one of the premier women’s tennis programs in the country, believes the Canes’ AD position is “a dream job, not a stepping stone,” regardless of the NCAA issues.
“The successful programs have people committed long term and who look at challenges as part of their job,” she said. “I get up in the morning and I’m so proud of what my program has done at Miami, not only because we’ve done it, but because we’ve done it with a whole lot less than what a lot of our competition has. We have a great group of individuals in this athletic department. We’ve made some amazing hires lately. Look at our future as a bright future and help us move forward in a positive way.”
FUND-RAISING A KEY
Men’s basketball coach Jim Larranaga’s vision of the right AD for UM, besides “someone who relates very, very well to coaches” and understands what they need to be successful, would be someone who has “a great presence in the community.
“Has to be very, very good at raising money and developing a marketing plan for all our sports,” Larranaga said. “He also needs to be someone who generates enthusiasm. We have to find ways to put more people in the stands, whether it be a football game, basketball game, women’s basketball game.”
Until the search actively begins, James, 43, will run the department. In his previous role as senior associate athletic director for development and ticket operations, James was the main fund-raiser for UM athletics, and was in charge of ticket sales and ticket operations.
Popular with his current staff and well regarded among donors, James came to UM after serving as athletic director at Maine from 2005-2010. He previously worked at UM from 1995-97 and from 1998-2001.
James’ Twitter handle is @CanesAllAccess – an obvious change in leadership style from his predecessor, Eichorst, who kept his distance from the South Florida Community and rarely spoke publicly.
James, for example, has launched a weekly “Ask The AD” question-and-answer session via Twitter, beginning 1 p.m. Thursday. Submit questions using #AskBlake hashtag.
Miami Herald sportswriter Michelle Kaufman contributed to this report.