Search for UI athletic director extended for new chancellor

Search for UI athletic director extended for new chancellor

URBANA — The search for a new athletic director was extended to give the next University of Illinois chancellor an opportunity to be involved and quell "speculation" about Ron Guenther's successor, President Michael Hogan said Tuesday.

Hogan was briefed by the chancellor's search committee last week and said there's "quite a bit of optimism" that a successor to interim Chancellor Robert Easter could be named by early July, if not the end of June. A few weeks ago, Hogan had predicted the new chancellor might not be announced until late July.

The new timetable meant the athletic director and chancellor's searches were going to be nearly simultaneous. Initial plans had called for the AD search to be wrapped up by July 1, the day after Guenther plans to retire.

"Suddenly it didn't seem so important to rush ahead" with the athletic director appointment, Hogan said Tuesday, following a UI Board of Trustees committee meeting in Urbana.

Extending that search past July 1 will give the new chancellor an opportunity to take part in interviews with candidates, Hogan said, echoing the explanation given Saturday by search committee chairman Larry DeBrock.

"This will be the chancellor the new athletic director reports to," Hogan said.

Easter agreed, saying, "We all want to know who our boss is going to be."

"It makes a lot of sense to have that person involved," Easter said.

It will also improve the university's chances of getting the "best and broadest pool of candidates," Hogan said.

Asked if Easter will still be involved in the decision, Hogan said, "If he's still on the ground, yes," adding, "We may have a new chancellor."

He or she will likely work with Easter and Hogan in the final stages of the process, he said.

Regarding Guenther's involvement, Hogan said, "I haven't had a single discussion with him since he made his announcement" on May 16 about his plans to retire.

The UI also decided last week to hire a consultant to help the 10-member search committee round up candidates, after initially announcing it would not use an outside search firm.

Will the evolving search process be tweaked any further? Hogan said any changes at this point would be "pro forma."

"This is all designed to counteract speculation" in the media and "give all reassurance that we're doing this the right way," he said.

Hogan wouldn't say what he was referring to specifically, but The News-Gazette and other newspapers have published lists of potential candidates, with Northwestern Athletic Director Jim Phillips mentioned as a logical first choice. Some writers have also speculated that Associate Athletic Director Tom Michael is the most likely internal candidate.

"We were all concerned that this speculation was affecting the candidates," Hogan said.

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