The president's special assistant for athletic affairs, Hal Baird, says that all of the finalists for the job have backgrounds in athletics, but he wouldn't say that all three have worked previously in collegiate athletic administration. Baird also notes that all of the candidates have familiarity with Auburn and the SEC.
Baird says that an executive search firm that specializes in hiring athletic administrators, Bill Carr Associates of Gainesville, Fla., identified at least 40 potential candidates. He notes that the candidates who will be brought to campus for a formal interview with Richardson will also meet with a variety of groups across campus.
Baird declined to name any specific candidates such as Auburn associate athletic director Jay Jacobs, who is interested in the position, as well as Birmingham businessman Mike Kolen, an All-American linebacker for the Tigers who had a long and successful career as a player for the Miami Dolphins.
Kolen says that he is no longer in the mix, but Jacobs andtwo other SEC associate athletic directors, Dan Radakovich of LSU and Greg McGarity of Florida, re expected to interviewed on campus along with Scott Etheridge, a former Auburn football player (kicker) who is the chief financial officer of NBC Sports. Etheridge works in New York City.
Current athletic director David Housel is scheduled to retire at the end of the year, but will continue to work for the university in some other capacity after that. Baird says that he promised Richardson that he would stay on the job through the end of March 2005, but after that he plans to retire. Baird, the former Auburn head baseball coach and associate athletic director, was considered a strong candidate to become athletic director, but he told Richardson that he is not interested in being considered.
Baird says he is not sure how many candidates will make it to the "second round" of interviews which are being held on campus with Richardson, who will make the hire as he did for the two basketball head coaches (Jeff Lebo and Nell Fortner) hired this year as well as the new head baseball coach Tom Slater. "It is kind of hard to say what the maximum number might be because we are in preparation right now," Baird says.
One of the early candidates considered for the post, Donald E. Powell, who is chairman of the Federal Deposit and Insurance Corporation, does not have any background in athletic administration. Richardson brought Powell in for a tour of the AU campus, but he is not believed to be one of the finalists.
Commenting on whether or not lack of athletic administration experience would be a problem in becoming an athletic director at Auburn, Baird says, "I think that is in the eye of the beholder. When you look around the country now there are some that have gotten the jobs with (experience) and some that haven't. I really think it is the individual. Clearly, there would be some advantages in that the learning curve would be shortened if these were issues the person had dealt with, but I am not sure conceptually it is like rocket science."
The time-line on hiring an athletic director has shifted several times. At first Richardson talked about bringing somebody on board in December of 2004. The time frame was then moved up to early fall and is now appears to be close to the original plan.
Baird says that he doesn't see when a new athletic director is hired as a major issue. "Unlike the coaching searches, at least in my mind, this one was not time urgent in any way," he says.