Yale Athletics Director Tom Beckett may be in the running for the vacant athletics director’s job at the University of Pittsburgh.
Beckett, a 1968 Pitt graduate and a Pittsburgh native, is favored by Pittsburgh athletic alumni groups to replace former Pittsburgh Athletics Director Steve Pederson. The Pittsburgh press has also speculated that Beckett is in the running for the job.
On Feb. 3, Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg formed an eight-person search committee to replace Pederson, who accepted the athletics director post at the University of Nebraska in December after a six-year Pittsburgh stint.
Beckett, who earned varsity letters in baseball and basketball for the Panthers, said Monday he had not been contacted by anyone at Pittsburgh with regard to the job.
“I have not been contacted by the University of Pittsburgh or spoken to people associated with the search,” Beckett said.
But Beckett acknowledged ties to both Pittsburgh and Yale.
“It’s my alma mater, my hometown, and I have lots of family and friends there,” Beckett said. “But I’m very happy at Yale.”
In early 1996, the last time Pittsburgh searched for an athletics director, Beckett was a favorite of Pittsburgh alumni and the Pittsburgh press.
Jerome Cochran, Pittsburgh executive vice chancellor and chair of the search committee, refused to comment on the search in an interview Wednesday.
“I make it a practice not to discuss anything about a search when we are trying to fill a senior position,” Cochran said.
Beckett is a favorite of the Pittsburgh Varsity Letter Club and Bob Smizik, a sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Smizik said hiring Beckett would be a good move for Pittsburgh.
“I have a lot of respect for him as a person,” Smizik said. “He would be a good choice with his Pittsburgh background. I think he has a chance. He is a highly qualified guy.”
Smizik spoke with Beckett in December about the position.
“I haven’t even thought about it,” Smizik reported Beckett as saying. “I have a great job at Yale. I’m not looking for a job.”
Heywood Haser, president of the Pittsburgh Varsity Letter Club, said the club supported Beckett in a Jan. 1 letter to the Post-Gazette.
“The consensus of opinion of former lettermen and the Pitt Varsity Letter Club is that Tom Beckett would be an excellent choice,” Haser wrote in the letter.
Haser did not return several telephone messages this week.
Steve Conn, Yale’s Director of Sports Publicity, said he thought anyone would want Beckett.
“He’s done great things as a sports administrator,” Conn said. “He’s one of the stars in sports administration.”
Beckett has been athletics director at Yale for almost nine years. Previously, he worked in the Stanford University Athletics Department for 11 years.
Although Cochran has refused to divulge any information on the search, Gary Dulac reported in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article Saturday that committee members have been making phone calls to a number of Division I athletics directors and associate athletics directors to sniff out those interested in the position. Mark Hollis, an associate athletic director at Michigan State who worked at Pittsburgh under Pederson’s predecessor, Oval Jaynes, was among those contacted.
Marc Boehm, executive associate athletics director under Pederson, is serving as interim athletics director. Boehm has a lot of experience in the department, where he has worked since 1997, and is a favorite of Pittsburgh football coach Walt Harris. Nordenberg has not ruled Boehm out as a candidate, and Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said in a Dec. 21 column that Boehm could make an excellent Athletics Director.
Dulac reported Saturday in the Post-Gazette that Boehm is considered the leading candidate.
“The university is apparently leaning toward maintaining the progress made in Pederson’s six years at the school,” Dulac wrote.
Paul Martha has also expressed interest in the job. Martha, a former All-American football player at Pittsburgh, was an administrator for Pittsburgh Penguin and San Francisco 49er teams that won two Stanley Cups and three Super Bowls, respectively.
Pederson grew up in Nebraska and graduated from the University of Nebraska. He oversaw a complete rebuilding of Pittsburgh’s varsity football program. He came to Pittsburgh in 1996.