EVAN THOMPSON, sportseditor
A collective sigh of relief most likely came from five individuals when news reached that Kent Stanley had dropped out of Central Washington Universiy’s hunt for a new athletic director.
Stanley, who is in his fifth year as Senior Associates Director at Division I Utah State University, was originally among the six finalists Central planned to announce until he removed himself from consideration last Thursday.
The 10-person search committee, tasked with finding the candidates, remained confident that the other five finalists still fit into what the school is looking for in an A.D. They decided to stick with the five rather than select a replacement for Stanley.
The sudden change has left the door slightly more open for the other candidates applying for athletic director: Barbara Dearing (Portland State University), Dennis Francois (Drake University), Gary Hyatt (CWU), Tracee Passeggi (Cal Poly Pomona University) and Greg Waggoner (Western State Colorado University.)
“All [five] of these candidates are really, really strong,” said Rob Lowery CWU Public Affairs and a member of the search committee, “Whoever emerges as the candidate that’s hired is going to be the best candidate. I think we’re going to hire a very capable leader for the department.”
The finalists were announced on March 28, after three months of deliberation when the search began in early January. More than 80 candidates from all over the country had applied.
“It’s a good job, it’s a job that’s obviously very attractive to people from all across the country,” Lowery said. “That was a process in itself, taking 80-plus down to the [five] that we’re bringing to campus.”
The fact that the position was sought after by so many pays testament to the fact that current Central athletic director Jack Bishop, who will retire at the end of the academic year, will be leaving the athletic department on good terms.
“He’s leaving the university in an excellent position,” Lowery said. “We’re competitive in football, men’s and women’s basketball. Every sport we’re competitive in.”
Each of the finalists were selected on a wide basis, from the strength of their resume to telephone interviews and reference checks.
“I think each of them has a tremendous amount of experience,” Lowery said. “And a broad range of experience. I’m excited to have the opportunity to meet each of them and talk with each of them.”
The real test for the candidates will come when they visit the campus over the next couple weeks.
Francois already began his campus visit on Wednesday and will participate in a series of interviews and both on-campus and Ellensburg community forums, which are open to the public.
Each of the candidates will visit the campus for a period of three days, where they will meet with the search committee, coaches, boosters, Wildcat athletic supporters and administrators on campus.
With all new renovations coming in the future to Nicholson Pavilion and the football stadium, along with an all-new fieldhouse for Wildcat athletics, whoever is selected will enter a similar situation that Bishop did in 2000 – with a solid ground to build upon.
“[Bishop] had a good foundation when he came in and he’s built on that,” Lowery said. “And I do think that the next athletic director, when he or she comes in, is going to be able to begin from a base of strength.”