3 finalists selected for athletic director

Aldo Soto, Sports Editor

Eastern announced three finalists for its vacant athletic director position Monday morning, as the selected applicants will have an on-campus interview July 7 through 9.

Following Barbara Burke’s departure in April, Eastern is one step closer to naming its next athletic director, which is now between Rick Hartzell, Tom Michael and Jim Sarra, after more than 45 people applied for the position.

Bob Martin, the vice president for university advancement, who has served as the chair of the athletic director search committee, compiled, reviewed and ranked all of the candidates before handing a list to President Bill Perry and Dan Nadler.
Nadler, the vice president for student affairs, is currently holding the interim athletic director title.

Out of the three finalists, Hartzell is the only one with prior experience being an athletic director. Even though he has been an athletic director in the past that does not give him an advantage, Martin said.

“The candidate who was an AD has great experiences, but the others based on the wide range experiences they have at large universities are equally prepared,” Martin said.

Michael is currently the senior associate athletic director at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, having served in that position since 2012.

Sarra is the deputy director of athletics at the University of Texas San Antonio, having served in that position since 2009. He was also the senior associate athletic director at the University of Maryland in 2004-05.

Hartzell is serving as an NCAA basketball official, while also overseeing a trio of racing publications, working summer basketball camps and developing a motivational speaking business.

His last athletic director position was at the University of Northern Iowa, where he ran the program from 1999 through 2008.

Hartzell has been an athletic director two other times, starting at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where he led the school from 1985-88.

After that, he moved on to Bucknell University, where he stayed from 1988-99.

Filtering through the nearly 50 possible candidates almost a month ago, the three finalists distinguished themselves from what they have done in the past and where they have worked.

“What stood out is the experience at successful programs and that the three finalists could hit the ground running to make our great program even better,” Martin said. “It was my goal for the committee to bring to campus three candidates that we could all be thrilled to have as our next director of athletics and we have succeeded.”

Despite the different levels of experience that each candidate enters with, the ultimate replacement of Burke is going to be someone that connects well with the university.

“Now, it is about fit,” Marin said. “Which one of the three distinguishes themselves as the one to lead EIU to an even brighter future will be our new athletic director.”

Eastern officials expect the new athletic director to take over full time in August.

Aldo Soto can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]