The trip from Boca Raton, Florida to Pullman, Washington, is about as far as one can go in college athletics. From the sunny shores of the Atlantic to the snow-capped hills of the Palouse, it’s quite a change when you’re looking for a new job. Florida Atlantic AD Pat Chun was the first interview of eight semifinalists to come to Pullman and, after more than an hour in front of the search committee, WSU President Kirk Schulz said one member remarked:
“I think we’re done.”
As it turned out, those other seven interviews were, in fact, unneeded. Pat Chun was formally introduced as the new athletics director of the Washington State Cougars in a Martin Stadium news conference this morning, noting the condition of the department he is taking over is quite good.
“The reputation of this place is incredible,” said Chun. “President Schulz’s reputation in college athletics is impeccable. I believe everything is in place right now, and you see the people we’ve accumulated here, the president we have, the passion of the alumni base; we’re in a great place.”
Chun’s fundraising record, something President Schulz has emphasized repeatedly as being important in the search process, is superb. Chun helped bring in the single largest gift ever given to Florida Atlantic, $16 million from the Schmidt Family Foundation for an athletics facility plus two separate $5 million gifts for naming rights to other facilities.
Before his work at FAU, Chun spent more than a decade at Ohio State University, rising through the ranks to his final role with the school as executive associate athletics director for external relations. For three straight years, the department set fundraising records under Chun’s watch with $42 million rolling in in 2012, his final year in Columbus.
“This is a game-changing day for our athletics program,” said Schulz in a media release. “We were focused on finding a leader with the right blend of experience, vision, and passion to lead Cougar athletics to the next level of success. In Pat, we’re confident we found that person. His achievements in fundraising, boosting the academic success rate of student athletes, and building strong relationships with the community—on- and off-campus—are exemplary.”
Chun officially begins his duties Feb. 5th and will be paid $650,000 annually in a five year deal, roughly middle of the road of known salaries for Pac-12 athletics directors. According to Schulz, his contract will include just one incentive: a fundraising goal they are still working to establish.
Chun is coming onto a job where coaches are very secure contract wise. Mike Leach, Jen Greeny, Todd Shulenberger, and Wayne Phipps are all locked up long term. Much to the distaste of many Cougar fans, Ernie Kent is too but Chun isn’t planning on coming in and shaking things up, saying he plans no immediate changes.
“I’m going to have to learn the lay of the land, learn the people, learn the customs,” said Chun. “We’re making plans to go out, see the state, see the people.”
When it comes to working with the aforementioned Leach, many see it as a unique challenge for any athletics director. Bill Moos had a fairly long leash with his football coach and rarely, if ever, reined Leach in.
For Chun, this probably won’t be too much of an issue considering the last football coach he was in charge of. Lane Kiffin would regularly, and hilariously, take shots at his former employer, the University of Alabama, on Twitter. Kiffin is also well known for speaking his mind, something he and Leach certainly have in common.
“My leadership style is more adaptive to who the person is,” said Chun. “Talking to Coach Leach, he’s in a great place at Washington State.”
For WSU, this seems to be a home run hire. Chun’s fundraising prowess is exactly what President Schulz was going for in this hiring process and, with some good work being done on that front in the past couple of months, the new AD seems to posed to continue that work. Besides the fundraising work, student-athletes at FAU achieved a cumulative 3.0 GPA for four consecutive semesters, the first time in school history that has ever happened.
The rubber meets the road next month once Chun moves into Bohler Gym. Lets hope he has his foot squarely on the gas pedal.