Ray Evans, chairman of the six-member search committee seeking a new athletic director for Kansas University, wants everyone to know he’s over the loss. No, not his alma mater’s loss to Baylor, the one the eighth-grade football team he coaches suffered.
“We’ve had them for five years, and that was our first loss,” Evans said.
At least it came to a team coached by a former member of the KU athletic department, Jeff Bollig.
“If you have to lose, you couldn’t pick a nicer guy to lose to,” Evans said of Bollig, KU’s sports information director at a time when P.R. stood for public relations, not prevention of reporting.
Evans agreed to a phone interview Wednesday night, but didn’t mention any or take questions about specific candidates. The interest from across the country has been just the tonic Evans needed to overcome the eighth-grade football loss.
“I’m embarrassed to tell you how much fun it is,” Evans said of the search. “Just when you think you have pared down your list, you hear from others. Just today, I talked to someone calling on behalf of two very impressive people. We’re glad to have that problem.”
Evans said the committee meets weekly either by phone or in person, and he receives daily updates from committee members.
Evans played football at KU, and his namesake father was among the greatest handful of athletes in the school’s history. Naturally, he thinks the A.D. at Kansas is a highly prestigious job. He knows he’s biased, so he enjoys hearing candidates explain why they’re interested.
“I’m pretty jazzed, pleased that people have the opinions they do about Kansas,” Evans said.
He said he has heard from several interested parties that one aspect that makes it such an appealing job is that facilities have been upgraded so extensively in recent years, so there isn’t an intimidating amount left to be done in that area.
“Everybody knows about the football facility and is excited about that,” Evans said. “Many have a good grasp of the debt situation, and when we explain that and they drill down on that, they feel good about that being a very manageable situation. They’re also pleasantly surprised at the level of annual donations.”
Football and women’s basketball, in that order, represent KU’s two best chances to mine untapped revenue.
Asked about the football program, Evans said, “We get frustrated with our historical inconsistency in football, but (candidates) tend to look at it as a small-cap growth stock that hasn’t fulfilled its potential.”
Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little initially said the goal was to have a new athletic director in place, “by the middle to latter part of the spring semester, if not sooner.”
The smart money is on “if not sooner.”
“I’d love to have it done as soon as possible, but the reality is it’s an incredibly critical hire, and we have to make certain to do our due diligence,” Evans said. “I’m really optimistic we’re making progress, but it’s probably not going to get done a week from Thursday.”
But could it get done before the end of this calendar year?
“It could,” Evans said.