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Deep UI roots on Illini AD selection committee

Illinois released the 10 names empowered to find a replacement for retiring athletic director Ron Guenther on Thursday, and a common thread ties all of the selection committee members: experience at Illinois.

Guenther said Monday that he declined a short-term extension at Illinois partly because of a fear that those without an Illinois background – be it a new chancellor and/or independent search firm – would ultimately decide his successor.

But his retirement seems to have prevented that possible outcome as chairman Larry DeBrock, dean of the College of Business and Illinois faculty member since 1979, will be surrounded by others with deep roots on the Champaign-Urbana campus.

Two coaches will serve on the committee: swimming and diving coach Sue Novitzky and wrestling coach Jim Heffernan. Novitzky has served 17 years at Illinois, starting as a volunteer assistant in 1994 before Guenther promoted her to assistant coach in 1997 and ultimately head coach in 2000. Heffernan has spent 18 years in the UI wrestling program, 17 years as an assistant coach under Mark Johnson before taking over as head coach this past season.

Steven Greene is in his 20th year at the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, serving as the director of development. He has played a big role in fund-raising and cultivating major donations for the athletic department. He played fullback for the Illini football team from 1972-75. Two associate athletic directors, Vincent Ille and Susan Young, also will serve on the AD search committee.

Other faculty members on the committee include Cleo D’Arcy, emeritus professor of crop sciences; Chris Span, associate professor of educational policies; and Matt Wheeler, professor of animal sciences. Span received a bachelor’s degree from Illinois in 1995, a master’s in educational policy studies in 1998 and a Ph.D. in educational policy studies in 2001. Wheeler is a former chairman of the Illinois athletic board.

Bob Falato, an alumni, has served on the athletic board and the University of Illinois Alumni Association.

Guenther, whose 19 years at the head of the UI athletic department make him the longest serving AD in the Big Ten, said Monday that he would serve as a “resource” to those charged with finding his replacement but that he would not have input on the final decision.

The committee plans to have a replacement in place by the time Guenther’s current contract expires on June 30. If the process drags past that date, a temporary AD likely would be appointed.

No matter when the replacement is announced, it’s clear that a committee with deep institutional knowledge and experience will be choosing the candidate.

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