Vice Chancellor John Kennedy: Next AD must be ‘face of UMass athletics’

Last modified: Wednesday, February 11, 2015

AMHERST — University of Massachusetts Vice Chancellor John Kennedy, who is the chairman of the search committee to hire the school’s next athletic director, didn’t rule out finding a replacement for John McCutcheon in the four to six week time frame that Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy cited last week, but said it wasn’t being approached like a hard deadline.

“It would be good to have the process go quickly, but the important thing is to hire the right person,” Kennedy said. “It’s so important for us to get the right person for this job, we want to cast a wide net to get the best possible person we can.”

The search committee will conduct its first meeting Monday weather permitting.

Kennedy praised McCutcheon, who is leaving to become the athletic director at California-Santa Barbara. Kennedy thought the chance to hire a new athletic director provided an opportunity.

“In every way the university is a juggernaut that’s improving across the board. So there’s an opportunity to take our athletics to the next level,” he said. “As appreciative as we are about the incredible work that John did, of course there’s an opportunity to bring in a new way of thinking, a new fresh approach to the way we can promote our athletics program and energize our students and alumni. To reinvigorate the fundraising, the marketing and the promotion and the ticket sales.”

Kennedy gave a broad look at what he’s hoping to find in a candidate.

“We need somebody to actually be the face of UMass athletics, who can sell the power and the value of UMass athletics to the university community, the commonwealth and beyond,” he said. “We need someone who has a keen vision for the future of the program and a sense on how to market the program, someone who has experience and accomplishment in fundraising. Those are some of the qualities we need to look for.”

Kennedy said the search committee will decide Monday on a search firm that will consult and aid in the process. Pending approval by the search committee, he said the school will likely hire Parker Executive Search, a company UMass has used before for searches outside of the athletic department.

“It’s trending Parker right now,” Kennedy said. “We had some familiarity with the Parker firm. They’d done some work for us before.”

Parker’s sports clients have included the NCAA itself, more than 20 Division I programs, including Connecticut, and the United States Olympic Committee.

While the firm is generally well-regarded, it came under scrutiny in 2013 when Rutgers was caught off guard by the revelation that Julie Hermann, the athletic director the New Jersey school hired to help it get past a player-abuse scandal, had similar accusations against her when she was the women’s volleyball coach at Tennessee, according to USA Today.

The cost of the search won’t be determined until Parker, or perhaps another firm, is officially hired, but according to USA Today, the University of Washington paid Parker $75,000 to guide its search for an athletic director in 2013.

Kennedy expected the candidate pool would come from the search committee and the search firm.

“We are not limited to the candidates that Parker gives us. The thing a search consultant will bring to us is a deep network and awareness of situations in athletics around the country to identify potential candidates who may not necessarily be aware of this opening. They might be able to identify candidates who wouldn’t have even occurred to us through their connections from searches past,” Kennedy said. “We have a completely open mind about the people we’re going to look at. Potential candidates have already heard about the opening and there are people who aren’t shy about making suggestions already.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at


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