When she names a new USF athletic director, President Judy Genshaft will have to choose between Virginia associate AD Jon Oliver and Saint Louis AD Doug Woolard. The two were unanimously recommended Thursday by the 12-member search committee.
Oliver stressed the importance of maintaining high academic standards for athletes during an interview on May 3.
“Student-athletes are still students first,” Oliver said, adding that the university has a responsibility to hold high expectations for athletes in the classroom.
Oliver has been at Virginia for three years. He said during that time he has hired first-year Virginia baseball coach Brian O’Connor, who has led the team to its highest-ever ranking at No. 7, as well as overseen the construction of some high-priced facilities.
Oliver said he led the construction of the $128 million John Paul Jones Arena, Virginia’s new 15,000-seat basketball arena scheduled to open in 2006. He also found a donor to finance the $7.5 million video scoreboard for the arena. He said one of his top priorities if chosen for AD would be to upgrade the Sun Dome, adding that he thinks the school needs a basketball practice facility. He also said he thinks USF’s football team should continue to play in Raymond James Stadium, calling an on-campus stadium unnecessary.
Woolard spent much of his interview relaying his experience at Washington State and past working relationships with several Big East ADs to refute the possibility that coming from a school without a football team presents a problem.
Woolard was associate AD at Washington State for six years, during the time he said he “had the chance to have the knowledge and involvement at a very high level in the Pac-10 (at) one (school) that has succeeded and moved forward.”
He also said his predecessor at Saint Louis, Maryland AD Deborah Yow, has brought Maryland to high levels of success in football, proving the Billikens’ lack of a football team is not necessarily a handicap.
Woolard said while at Saint Louis he has interacted with five schools — Louisville, Cincinnati, DePaul, Marquette and Notre Dame — all of those that USF will join in the Big East when it jumps conferences in 2005. He also said his time working with USF in Conference USA has enabled him to learn more about the university.
“I do enjoy where I am at now,” Woolard said. “I know a lot about (USF) simply because I have had the opportunity to work in the same conference. You have an opportunity now that very few universities have ever had. Between 2004 and 2010, this university has a chance to do some things it has never done, and athletics has a chance to be very important in that process.”
Woolard said the imminent Big East move makes the position attractive to applicants.
“There’s no question in my mind, I know this institution will be competitive in the Big East in a very short amount of time,” Woolard said. “The financial pieces will fall in place if you have a plan. (An expanded budget) is not going to come overnight. It’s not just about money, saying, ‘We need $10 million, let’s get our budget up to where everyone else is tomorrow.’ It’s about making the right choices.”
Michael Rierson, vice president of university advancement and a member of the search committee, told The Tampa Tribune that both candidates were very impressive.
“Jon Oliver delivered a sense of motivation and enthusiasm that was positively electric,” Rierson said. “If he was a baseball player, he was throwing a perfect game. He strikes me as an enthusiastic, focused, energetic and deliberate leader…I believe he can carry a lot of weight as a leader.”
“Doug Woolard brought a sense of experience. An ‘I’ve been there and have the ability to take you there’ perspective. He had a calm and mature energy. He also brought forward a sense of national experience. Doug had a sense he knew where he wanted to take us in basketball, football and in all sports. He had a community.”
Two other finalists, Michigan State associate AD Mark Hollis and former Air Force Academy AD Randy Spetman, were brought to the campus for interviews with the search committee before the list was pared to two.
In nine years, Hollis, who said peers have labeled him “the idea guy,” has seen Michigan State’s annual athletic sponsorship revenue increase from $350,000 to more than $2.7 million. Spetman, a retired Air Force colonel and former Air Force defensive end and captain, oversaw the academy’s shift to the Mountain West Conference and the women’s teams’ rise to Division I.
There is no timetable for Genshaft’s decision. Genshaft met with the finalists for an hour during their interviews.