After Judy Rose announced her retirement from the Director of Athletics position in early January, the hunt to fill the void began in the Chancellor’s office.
“Searches, sometimes when they search for a chancellor it can take up to a year, but in the case here, we wanted to get started quickly and see if we could get it done in a reasonable amount of time,” Chancellor Phillip DuBois said.
The first step in the pursuit for a new director was to create a search committee of 10 stakeholders of Charlotte Athletics, including former athletes, professors and members of the UNC Charlotte Athletic Foundation Board.
“The process there is you’re trying to find people who broadly represent categories of constituencies of athletics. For example, we have people concerned about academic issues, so I had two faculty members on the committee, both of whom had been presidents of the faculty council,” DuBois said.
After the committee was established, DuBois turned his attention to hiring a search consultant that would help compile a list of prospective hires. Complying with state laws, DuBois and his staff had to request proposals from groups. They received back submissions from 12 firms, and eventually selected Turnkey.
“What impressed me about them is that they had done a lot of Power 5 AD searches. I was a little bit biased going in about Power 5 because they represent large, complex athletic departments, and the people that work in them know a lot about what a great Athletic Department would look like when it’s fully baked and more mature,” DuBois said.
Turnkey’s Gene DeFilippo worked with the group and created a list of 13 candidates comprised of people he knew were looking to become and athletic director or sitting AD’s at various institutions. The search committee evaluated DeFilippo’s list and thinned it down to nine possibilities.
Those nine individuals were invited to interview with the committee the last week of February.
“We interviewed them off-campus at a secret location. We did that because, if for example, you had a sitting AD in your pool, they would not want to be exposed for fear they might lose their job at their present institution. It turned out we didn’t have any sitting AD’s, but it was still a good idea because we didn’t want to start a lot of chatter, particularly on social media, about who the candidates ought to be,” DuBois said.
After the initial interviews, the group narrowed the prospects down to two individuals: Mike Hill from the University of Florida and Phil Esten from Penn State. Those two traveled to Charlotte again for another round of interviews that began with dinner at the Chancellor’s house and continued with various members of the Charlotte community the following day.
“They both have extensive interviews. At the end of the day, we asked everyone who talked to the candidates to send us a rating, highly recommend, recommend, do not recommend. They were both evaluated by about 45 people, so we had a lot of input,” DuBois said.
“After I looked at all of the input, which came in Tuesday by 6 p.m., after the second candidate had been here, I made the selection and then called Mike Hill and offered him the job, and he took it right away. The other candidate, that’s a very hard call to make because they’ve thrown their emotions into the idea of being the AD here,” DuBois said.
After Hill accepted the position, the next day the two parties’ lawyers had to negotiate the terms to the Memorandum of Agreement or Memorandum of Understanding. The groups agreed to a document at 4:45 p.m., which was just in time to get it approved by the Board of Trustees to unanimously approve the document at their 5 p.m. appointment.
With all his focus being on filling the void at that position, DuBois is relieved the search is complete.
“We’ve done nothing else around here for about a month and I’ve got a large job to do in other areas. I’m glad it’s over, I’m glad we were able to get it done,” Dubois said.
“I’m very satisfied with it, I think we did it the right way, got it done quickly. We had the right kinds of people in the discussion and we got a great, great Athletic Director.”