TROY – A couple factors are contributing to the length of time Troy University leaders are taking to find Jeremy McClain’s successor as athletics director.
McClain led the Trojans’ program as AD from 2015 before he resigned in early April to take the AD job at Southern Mississippi.
Troy Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., said during an interview Wednesday night between innings at the Troy-Alabama baseball game at Riddle-Pace Field that McClain will be missed.
“Jeremy did a tremendous job and we’ll miss him,” Hawkins said. “That said, I think the good job he did and John Hartwell did before him really set a high standard.”
Finding the right person to meet and, hopefully, exceed that standard takes time.
McClain hired Troy head football coach Chip Lindsey in January and head basketball coach Scott Cross in March. Both have hit the ground running and are off to outstanding starts. Best of all, neither one has lost a game.
Troy’s increasing visibility in football – with three consecutive bowl victories and upset wins at LSU and Nebraska in the past two seasons – weren’t good only for Neal Brown. Hawkins called the level of interest in the athletics director position “unprecedented.” It’s another reason the search continues.
“We had well over 60 very serious candidates and probably 40 of those at least – maybe 45 of them – met all the criteria,” Hawkins said. “… And, I might add, at least six of the current candidates are current ADs at Division I.
“So it’s really a difficult process. We’re getting to a point where we are identifying the finalists. We anticipate within the next several weeks getting it to six and interviewing six – and then we’ll make a determination.”
One word McClain used when he introduced both Lindsey and Cross is “fit” – and Hawkins used it as he talked about what Troy was looking for.
“We’re looking for, obviously, integrity. People who will run our program right, that have a good track record and that will be a good fit. Fit is critical for Troy,” the chancellor said.
“We know our facility is unequalled in our conference, we have great tradition and we have no reason to believe we won’t get a great AD. It’ll be interesting to see who prevails.”
Hiring good people isn’t new to Hawkins. It’s partly why he has to do it so often. He’s joked before that when people stop trying to hire your folks away, you’re doing something wrong. He talked about evolution of the AD job since he came to Troy 30 years ago.
“Increasingly, it’s more of a science than an art. The skill sets are better defined,” Hawkins said, adding the days of former coaches automatically rising to the role of athletic director are gone.
“It’s a business. It’s a multi-million dollar business that involves not only a lot of employees, but hundreds of students. Every step in the process is important, because one minor mistake will capture the ‘imagine’ of the country and we don’t want to be in that position.”
Hawkins credited interim AD Sandy Atkins for doing “a great job” with the day-to-day running of the department. Atkins played softball at Troy and is in the Troy University Sports Hall of Fame. She earned a master’s degree at Kentucky and worked for the Southeastern Conference for two years before returning to Troy in 2001. She was also interim AD during the months between Hartwell’s departure and McClain’s hiring in 2015.
“She’s just the backbone of the program,” Hawkins said.
She is not, however, a candidate for the permanent AD job, Hawkins said.
“She made that clear when she took the job,” he said.