Illinois hires search firm for AD search

Illinois hires search firm to assist in search for new athletic director but shies away from its past relationship with Parker

CHAMPAIGN - Thirty seven days after dismissing athletic director Mike Thomas, the University of Illinois announced it has hired a search firm to find Thomas' replacement.

The university has contracted Korn Ferry, the world's largest executive search firm, taking a step away from Parker Executive Search Firm, which Illinois employed during its searches for Thomas, dismissed football coach Tim Beckman and men's basketball coach John Groce.

“My hope all along was to identify a firm that had the experience and network to add value to our efforts,” Illinois interim chancellor Barbara Wilson said in a statement. “Korn Ferry will play a crucial role in conducting an effective, comprehensive and confidential process of interacting with top-quality candidates for this vital and sought-after campus role.”

Here is the university's official release

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has hired Korn Ferry, the world’s largest executive search firm, to assist with the search for a new director of athletics.

Chancellor Barbara Wilson announced the decision today after the university completed the search firm procurement process, which began in mid-November. “My hope all along was to identify a firm that had the experience and network to add value to our efforts,” Wilson said. “Korn Ferry will play a crucial role in conducting an effective, comprehensive and confidential process of interacting with top-quality candidates for this vital and sought-after campus role.”

Korn Ferry will support the search committee, which is chaired by professor Matt Wheeler, the faculty athletic representative. Wilson said the additional expertise will serve as a valuable resource to the committee in its recommendation of top candidates for her review. Korn Ferry has served in that role in searches for high-level athletic administrators and head coaches at universities including Michigan, Oregon, Texas and Virginia.

The new hire will be the U. of I.’s 14th director of intercollegiate athletics in the program’s 126 years of competition, overseeing an annual budget of $110 million and a staff of 275 employees. The university has 21 varsity sports with more than 500 student-athletes, and is a charter member of both the Big Ten Conference and the National Collegiate Athletics Association. The Fighting Illini have won 20 NCAA championships, five football national championships and 247 Big Ten titles. Fighting Illini athletes have earned 27 Olympic medals while competing for 14 countries in 24 Olympics.

Senior Associate Athletics Director Paul Kowalczyk is serving as the interim director.

Wilson has instructed the search committee to proceed expeditiously but thoroughly. In compliance with state and university regulations, a decision could be made any time after Jan. 4. Final approval of the successful candidate is subject to approval by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.


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