With AD Sheahon Zenger out at KU, it’s time to take a look at possible candidates to fill the vacancy. This is admittedly a much tougher task than taking a look at, say, head coaching candidates. I didn’t really know where to start, so I honestly just googled “D1 athletic director candidates.”
A few names really popped off the list for me, but I’ll let you comment on what you see. There will be a short blurb, and I will add links to official bios if available. I’ve got it organized into a few different categories, and then we’ll have some fun at the end.
Chancellor Girod has appointed former interim AD Drue Jennings to lead the search for Zenger’s replacement. Jennings famously led the searches that led KU to current basketball coach Bill Self and the previous Chancellor, Bernadette Gray-Little. The stated goal of the search is to name a new athletic director by the end of the summer.
It should probably be noted that I have no inside knowledge of anything, and as far as I know, none of these people have been contacted by KU or publicly expressed interest in the job.
Danny White, Central Florida AD
One of the younger names on our rundown at 38, White has been the AD at UCF since 2015. Prior to that, he was the AD at Buffalo from 2012-15, and the Senior Associate AD at Ole Miss from 2009-12. Obviously we know about the turnaround of the UCF football program over the past couple of years, but he also orchestrated similar turnarounds with impressive coaching hires for UCF’s men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as the baseball team.
White is probably my favorite candidate in this entire article.
Terry Mohajir, Arkansas State AD
My second favorite candidate, Mohajir has Kansas ties, as he was an assistant coach under Glen Mason from 1993-1996. He has been the AD at Arkansas State since 2012. In that time, ASU has tripled its athletics budget while breaking school fundraising records. He also hired football coaches Blake Anderson and Bryan Harsin. Prior to ASU, Mohajir was at Florida Atlantic as their Senior Associate AD from 2004-11.
Michael Alford, Central Michigan AD
Alford has been the AD at CMU for almost exactly one year now. He has Big 12 ties, as his prior gig was at Oklahoma, where he was the Senior Associate AD. He has also worked for the Dallas Cowboys, Alabama, ESPN, Southern Cal, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the University of Cincinnati.
Phil Esten, Penn State Deputy AD
Esten was a finalist for the Charlotte AD job back in February. He has been at Penn State since 2014 after holding the Deputy AD position at Cal from 2012-14. He has also worked in the athletic departments of Minnesota and Ohio State.
Movin’ on Up
Tom Bowen, Memphis AD
Bowen has been the AD at Memphis since 2012. He held the same position at San Jose State from 2004-2012, and prior to that, he worked in the front office for the San Francisco 49ers. Bowen has set fundraising records while at Memphis and led the school as they became a charter member of the American Athletic Conference.
Joe Parker, Colorado State AD
Parker has been at CSU since 2015. Prior to that he was the Senior Associate AD at Texas Tech, and held that same position at Michigan, Oklahoma, Washington State, and Texas. In case you were unaware, CSU recently opened a brand-new football stadium. He also oversaw the $226M renovation of Michigan Stadium 10 years ago. A fun note, CSU’s women’s volleyball and women’s basketball teams both went undefeated in conference play last year.
Michael Izzi, UC Irvine AD
Izzi has been at UC-I since 2007. Prior to that he worked for 16 years in the Stanford athletic department, where he led the pledge drives to renovate Maples Pavilion ($30M) and Stanford Stadium ($100M). He is a UCLA grad, and I’m guessing may not be too interested in leaving the west coast.
Curt Apsey, Boise State
Apsey was named AD at Boise in 2015. He had been the Senior Associate AD at Boise from 1998-2014; the one year break saw him go to Carroll College (in Montana) to be their AD before returning back to Boise. Like Izzi, he appears to be a west coast guy, or at least, a Boise guy, as he’s been in that area for the past 20 years.
Sean Lester, Kansas Deputy AD
Lester was reportedly a finalist when KU hired Zenger in 2011. I would assume he’ll throw his hat in the ring, but if they didn’t hire him then, why would they hire him now? This is his second term as Interim AD at KU. He has been Deputy AD at KU since 2013, and has been on campus in the athletic department since 2003. His primary duties lately have been to oversee the men’s basketball, football, and baseball programs, but let’s be honest - football and baseball are train wrecks at the moment.
Jamie Pollard, Iowa State AD
Pollard has been at ISU since 2005, and has previously worked in athletic departments at Wisconsin, Maryland, and Saint Louis. He’s hired Fred Hoiberg (not that that was difficult) and Matt Campbell, who sure looks like a home run hire for their football program. He has also overseen over $160M in improvements to Jack Trice Stadium. In his tenure, ISU has tripled its revenues.
Pollard’s position seems fairly secure at Iowa State, so why would he go to Kansas in what could possibly be considered a lateral move?
Rick George, Colorado AD
George has been the CU AD since 2013. The stat to mark with George is that in his fourth year in Boulder, 13 of CU’s 16 athletic teams were ranked in the top-25 at some point during their respective seasons. He played football at Illinois before heading to Vanderbilt to serve as the Associate AD from 1991-98.
But again you would have to ask yourself, would George consider a lateral move?
Mitch Barnhart, Kentucky AD
Barnhart has been in Lexington since 2002 and is the longest tenured AD in the SEC. This means he has hired three football coaches at UK: Rich Brooks, Joker Phillips, and Mark Stoops. Barnhart has never had a football coach win more than 8 games while at Kentucky, but they have been to back-to-back bowls, and gone to seven bowl games overall since 2002 (16 years). Previously, he was the AD at Oregon State from 1998-2002. Barnhart is from Kansas City, KS, and did his undergraduate studies at Ottawa University.
Like Pollard and George, it seems unlikely that Barnhart would be willing to make a lateral move.
John Currie, Unemployed
The just-fired Tennessee AD, Currie only lasted 8 months in Knoxville after bungling the football coaching search with “multiple high-profile embarrassments.” However, he held the same position at Kansas State from 2009-17. He did his undergrad at Wake Forest, but that time at KSU is enough for me to say no. Although reportedly well regarded in the AD community, the friction he had at KSU with both Bill Snyder and Frank Martin was well documented.
Ian McCaw, Liberty AD
I don’t want anything to do with anyone who was involved in the most recent scandal at Baylor. Despite those events, I suppose it should be noted that McCaw is still highly regarded, although the only person speaking out positively for him publicly is his lawyer.
Sorry, I just had to throw this one here, for old time’s sake!
Clint Bowen, Assistant HC and DC, Kansas
Bowen is entering his 23rd year on staff at Kansas, but they’ve all been coaching positions and not administrative. But hey, he loves the university, y’all.
Mike Alden, Professor of Education, Missouri
Hired Quin Snyder, then sent the radio guy to fire Snyder, gave us all kinds of fun with the Ricky Clemons debacle, got clowned by Mike Anderson, then hired Frank Haith who was under a massive NCAA investigation at Miami. He also oversaw the end of the Border War, covered up departmental investigations into Mike Dixon (and multiple others), and hired Kim Anderson. There are so many more things to poke at here, but who has the time? Get that MU trash outta here.
Big Jay, Mascot, Kansas (Pictured)
Similar to Clint Bowen, he loves the university but has no experience in administration. Would still probably do a better job over a seven year span than Sheahon Zenger did, though.