WCU chancellor names committee to search for next athletics director

Western Carolina University Chancellor Kelli R. Brown has appointed a 15-member search committee that will help select the university’s next director of intercollegiate athletics.

Brown also announced that Collegiate Sports Associates, a North Carolina-based executive search consulting firm, has been hired to assist the committee in its work. The firm was founded by Todd Turner, who has more than 35 years of experience in intercollegiate athletics administration.

Turner’s career includes serving as director of athletics at four major universities – the University of Connecticut, N.C. State University, Vanderbilt University and the University of Washington. Turner and his firm also assisted in the search for WCU’s last director of athletics.

Ivy Gibson

Ivy Gibson, associate general counsel at WCU, is chairing the search committee, which includes current and former student-athletes, Catamount Club representatives, athletics department staff and members of the external community with experience in intercollegiate athletics. All are strong supporters of Catamount athletics, Brown said in announcing the committee in a message to campus Wednesday, Dec. 18.

“I think it is important to quickly appoint this search committee and charge the group to begin its work right after the first of the new year toward a goal of having a new director of athletics in place by the end of February,” Brown said. “I also think it is vital that this committee be made up of folks who understand the world of intercollegiate athletics and who appreciate the value that it adds to an institution.”

The process will include opportunities for other supporters of Catamount athletics to offer input, Brown said.

The search for the university’s next director of athletics comes after the WCU Board of Trustees earlier this year asked the athletics department to create a master plan to guide the renovation and construction of athletics facilities.

“I am using this document to develop a plan that is driven by philanthropy and student support to upgrade our athletics facilities,” Brown said. “I am committed to excellence within the athletics department by ensuring that our student-athletes graduate, that we continue to be strong in our philanthropy and that our teams are competitive within the Southern Conference.”

Member of the athletics director search committee, in addition to Gibson, are:

* John Brannon, a senior student-athlete who is a member of the football team.

* Dan Brooks, retired Division I assistant football coach who was part of national championship teams at the University of Tennessee and Clemson University. A member of the Catamount Club Board of Directors, Brooks is a 1976 graduate of WCU and former football student-athlete.

* Joseph Crocker, director of local impact for Forsyth County for the Kate Reynolds Charitable Trust. A former member of the WCU Board of Trustees and board chair from 2001 until 2003, Crocker is a 1974 graduate of WCU and was formerly a student-athlete on the men’s tennis team.

* Karen Glover, WCU head volleyball coach since 2011 and two-time recipient of Southern Conference Coach of the Year honors in that sport.

* Malea Habbal, vice president and president-elect of the Catamount Club Board of Directors. A 2007 graduate of WCU, Habbal is a former women’s golf student-athlete.

* Stacey Miller, WCU associate athletics director for academic success and senior woman administrator. Miller’s spouse, Chad Miller, is WCU’s head soccer coach.

* Ben Pendry, WCU executive director of advancement services. Pendry is a 2007 graduate of WCU.

* Jake Robinson, chief executive officer of Champion Credit Union, based in Canton. A member of the Catamount Club Board of Directors, Robinson is a former men’s basketball student-athlete and a 2010 graduate of WCU.

* Kevin Stanberry, vice president of Stanberry Insurance, based in Sylva. A member of the Catamount Club Board of Directors, Stanberry is a 1994 graduate of WCU.

* Kate Swartwout, a senior student-athlete who is a member of the soccer team.

* David Tyler, WCU associate professor of sport management and chair of the Faculty Senate’s University Athletics Committee.

* Mike Wade, president of Rabbit Ridge Properties. A two-time Academic All-American while a football student-athlete, Wade is a 1977 graduate of WCU.

* Melissa Canady Wargo, WCU chief of staff. Wargo has served as chief of staff since June 2013 and has been with the university since 2006.

* Jim Wood, retired banking executive with Wells Fargo. Currently serving as president of the Catamount Club, Wood is a 1983 graduate of WCU.

The committee is guiding a search for a successor to Randy Eaton, who served as WCU director of athletics from December 2011 until Dec. 10, 2019. Until a permanent director of athletics is named, WCU athletics staff is reporting to Mike Byers, WCU’s vice chancellor of administration and finance.

The search committee will hold its first meeting Monday, Jan. 6, on the campus in Cullowhee.