Around 20 students gathered on Monday night to discuss the search for Yale’s next athletics director, as well as general issues pertaining to Yale athletics.
The meeting, jointly hosted by Yale College Council and the Yale Student-Athlete College Council, consisted of an informal conversation between students and members of the Athletic Director Search Advisory Committee. The members in attendance were Yale College Dean Marvin Chun, Director of Administrative Affairs Pilar Montalvo, Men’s Lacrosse captain Ben Reeves ’18 and former Jonathan Edwards Head of College Penelope Laurans. Students lauded current athletic director Tom Beckett’s leadership style and personal connections with student-athletes and said they hoped to see similar qualities in the next athletic director. Committee members supported that view, emphasizing the importance of candidates’ understanding of the singular challenges facing sports programs at the Ivy League level.
“One big criteria is [finding] someone who knows how to work with students and knows the unique pressures that students in Ivy League face,” Chun said.
Right now, the advisory committee is in the initial phases of its work as it gathers input from the Yale community, according to Montalvo. The group is also working with Greg Santore of Witt/Kieffer Inc., a leadership recruitment firm, to compile a list of potential candidates for the position.
In the coming months, the advisory committee will evaluate potential candidates based on students’ input, among other factors, before submitting a final recommendation to University President Peter Salovey in the spring. But all specific details about the search process must remain confidential after the committee chooses an initial set of candidates, Chun explained. As athletics administrators are expected to remain loyal to their current school, they risk job termination if the public discovers they have been interviewing for positions at other schools.
“We take the search with incredible seriousness because it’s a very big job — we have over 800 undergraduates playing sports at Yale, which is a much higher proportion than most peer universities,” Montalvo said.
Regarding the characteristics they’re looking for in Yale’s next athletics director, students emphasized Beckett’s presence both “on and off the field,” saying it is important that next director be equally accessible. Two Communication and Consent Educators at the event praised Beckett’s receptiveness to their group, and members of the Yale College Council said they appreciated his cooperation with their student-athletics task force and hoped to work regularly with the next athletic director.
Students also asked whether diversity or previous Yale affiliation would be priorities in the candidate search. Chun said that Santore has experience finding diverse candidates in his past work, and added that “all things equal, [having a Yale affiliation] would be a huge advantage.”
Still, committee members emphasized the demanding nature of the position, and said their first priority would be to find someone able to handle the responsibilities the position entails.
“It’s a huge job — the athletics director has over 200 people working directly for them, 2,000 acres of land to oversee, and 35 [varsity] sports, as well as intramurals,” Laurans said.
In addition to the athletic director search, students also discussed other concerns about Yale’s athletics program. These included student attendance at sporting events other than the Harvard-Yale football game, sports medicine staffing and the relationship between student-athletes and other students.
Chun emphasized the importance of student athletics on campus. He said that if a student or group of students publicly opposed the status of athletics on campus, for example in a News opinion piece, he would want to talk to them directly about their concerns.
“[Athletics are] a very important part of Yale College and the Yale College experience — something I value a lot as the new dean,” he said. “We view athletics as a part of the liberal arts program that instills social and leadership skills.”
Current athletic director Tom Beckett will retire in June 2018.
Natalie Wright | firstname.lastname@example.org