With a source close to the situation confirming that Western will interview candidates for the Athletics Director position this weekend in Hot Springs, Ark., it’s time to start speculating who those candidates may be.
The Herald has compiled a short list of people who could fit the bill for Western’s next AD. The candidates are listed in alphabetical order:
Ross Bjork – Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Relations, UCLA
Bjork is in his fifth year at UCLA, where he is in charge of fundraising, ticket sales, merchandising and other forms of revenue generation. During his tenure, UCLA has seen record highs in ticket sales for football and men’s basketball and in total monetary gifts for athletics.
Bjork, 37, has had similar success at Miami (Fla.) and Missouri, where he was able to greatly increase the amount of donations and total revenue of both athletic departments. He is a former president of the National Association of Athletic Development Directors (NAADD).
Bjork also has a tie to Western. Before arriving at Missouri in 1997, he worked as an assistant coordinator for the Hilltopper Athletic Foundation. Bjork’s name has been tied to AD openings at UNLV, San Diego State and Marshall over the past nine months, and he squashed rumors this week that he was a candidate for the same position at Rice.
Patrick Ransdell – Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing and Development, Coastal Carolina
This one could be a stretch, but his connections to Western are strong. Ransdell graduated from Western in 2002, played baseball for the Hilltoppers, and we all know his father Gary as the president of the University.
As part of his position, Ransdell works with Coastal Carolina’s Chanticleer Athletic Foundation – Western’s equivalent of the HAF.
Brian Wickstrom – Senior Associate Athletic Director, Texas-El Paso
Wickstrom doesn’t have any direct ties to Western, but his name has been circulated often with recent AD searches. He was speculated as a candidate for the Marshall, Houston and South Alabama AD jobs in summer 2009, and he denied any connection to the Rice opening today – much like Bjork.
The Mobile Press-Register (Ala.) reported on July 20, 2009, that Wickstrom was one of three finalists for the South Alabama position, but was not chosen.
The Houston Chronicle provided good insight into Wickstrom’s success at UTEP when it named him a possible candidate for the Houston job.
As the understudy to UTEP AD Bob Stull the past three years, Wickstrom oversees a handful of sports that include men’s basketball. Wickstrom has made perhaps his strongest impact at UTEP with his abilities in fund-raising and finance. He was directly involved in the fund-raising and planning of a recently opened $14.3 million basketball practice facility financed entirely by donations.
“They say he’s a money machine,” said one UH employee.
Chris Wyrick – Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Affairs, Arkansas
Wyrick joined Arkansas in May 2008 and has been heavily involved in marketing, development and major gift fundraising.
He was previously Associate Athletic Director for Development at South Carolina, where one of his crowning achievements was the restructuring of its athletic foundation, the Gamecock Club. Wyrick’s efforts saw an increase in revenue from $13.8 million in 2006 to $27.8 million in 2007.
Wyrick is also likely familiar with the Bowling Green area, as he spent six years at Vanderbilt as an administrator and a fundraiser. During his tenure, he raised almost $80 million for Vandy, which helped fund the Memorial Gym practice facility, a football practice facility and the baseball stadium, among other projects.
-It’s clear that these candidates all have something in common – they’re heavily involved with their respective schools’ athletic foundations and they’re proven fundraisers, which are most likely things Western’s search committee will be looking for. The Herald will be following the situation closely in Hot Springs and will bring you any updates as they become available here and at wkuherald.com.