Herbst announced Wednesday that UConn will begin its search immediately and appointed an eight-member search committee that will be co-chaired by Pendergast.
In a news release, the school said, "Parker Executive Search, Inc. of Atlanta will assist the university in this national search, supporting the committee and the President in the selection process. The search will be completed with a new athletic director named within next three months."
Coming at a time when realignment is dominating the college athletics landscape, this will be an extremely important hire for Herbst, who is in her first year as UConn president.
"This is one of the most important positions at the University, given our tremendously successful athletic programs and the challenges ahead in college sports," Herbst said in a statement. "We seek an extraordinary leader who will shape the future of our program, emphasizing above all else – academic performance, transparency and integrity.
"Our new athletic director will build upon the strength of our programs and will be welcomed into this highly ambitious Husky family. I expect our new leader to maintain the excellence we already have, but to also forge new paths, so that UConn can lead the nation in both winning and student-athlete academic success. We have such wonderful young men and women in our program, across so many highly competitive sports and I expect our athletic director to be a role model to them and to our entire student body."
Pendergast, named interim AD in August, will co-chair the committee with Carol Polifroni, professor of nursing and chair of the President's Advisory Committee for Athletics. He will then remain at the university, working with the UConn Foundation and focusing on fundraising for the UConn Health Center and the athletic department.
Last week, UConn announced that Pendergast had successfully secured a $4.5 million gift recently from Peter J. and Pamela H. Werth of Woodbridge, Conn., to be used toward the planned basketball practice facility. It is the largest single gift to UConn athletics in the school's history.
"Paul has done an outstanding job as interim athletic director and we are very fortunate that he will remain here at UConn," Herbst said.. "He has provided strong leadership during this period of transition and I cannot thank him enough."
Pendergast became interim AD after Jeff Hathaway was forced to resign. Despite a successful year on the field, dissension within the athletic department and a failure to raise funds led to Hathaway's demise and he signed a separation agreement worth an estimated $700,000.
Pendergast expressed an interest in the full-time job at that time.
"It could be [permanent]," Pendergast said at the press conference introducing him as interim AD. "I think I have to act that way."
But now he has changed his mind.
"As I told President Herbst, I'd like to devote all of my time to key areas where I can best serve this institution," said Pendergast, who will also manage UConn's outreach efforts and relations with the business community, alumuni, partners, donors and fans. "This is an amazing place and I am excited about the work ahead."
Joining Pendergast and Polifroni on the search committee are: Andy Bessette ‘75, Executive Vice President and CAO, The Travelers Companies, Former men's track All-American and Olympian; Scott Brown, Professor of Educational Psychology, NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative; Andrea Dennis-LaVigne '03, Former UConn Board of Trustees member, Owner, Bloomfield (Conn.) Animal Hospital; Jim Penders '94, ‘98, Head Baseball Coach, Former Baseball Student-Athlete; Tom Ritter, '77 Law, Vice Chairman, UConn Board of Trustees; Partner, Brown Rudnick, LLP; and Rachel Rubin ‘77, Chief of Staff, Office of the President
According to the UConn release, "management of the UConn athletics program will be the primary task of the new athletic director, along with all compliance and academic support responsibilities. Fundraising is also key to the position and Pendergast has made significant progress the new athletic director will build upon.
"Pendergast will continue to serve as the interim athletic director until the permanent athletic director is in place. Joanne Fazio of the Office of the President will support both the Committee and Parker Executive Search."