UPEI won’t rush in search to find new athletic director

 Stephanie Knickle-Currie, UPEI’s manager of campus and community recreation, has been busy keeping the department organized while the school searches for a new athletic director. Ally Harris photo.
Stephanie Knickle-Currie, UPEI’s manager of campus and community recreation, has been busy keeping the department organized while the school searches for a new athletic director. Ally Harris photo.
By Ally Harris
Sept. 12, 2014

UPEI shouldn’t rush its search for a new athletic director, says the school’s manager of campus and community recreation.
Stephanie Knickle-Currie said people need to trust the hiring process and the school should focus on finding the right individual.
“We want the process to take as much time as possible so we can establish somebody (who is) the right candidate.”
The school was left without an athletic director when former director Bill Schurman left at the beginning of the month. Schurman told the department in July he would be leaving and he finished on Sept. 1. He had served as the school’s athletic director since February 2013.
Women’s hockey coach Bruce Donaldson said it was disappointing to hear Schurman was leaving.
“(But it was) totally understandable. I give him full credit for making a personal decision that there (were) other opportunities for him.”
Although UPEI is in no hurry to find a new one, Donaldson said an athletic director is extremely important to a school.
“I’m not sure there’s a university anywhere in the country that does not have a key personnel as an athletic director.
“It’s great when you have an athletic director that is able to introduce key varsity players to the community. People want to know who our top athletes are and how we support them.”
It’s a big job that has many components, he said.
“They have to manage and administer the department. They have the varsity piece with all the coaches attached to it.
“Here, they would also be tasked with the community piece – the fitness centre.”
John Richard knows a thing or two about the life of an athletic director. He is serving his fourth year as athletic director at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. He also spent 18 months as the interim director and six years as assistant director. It isn’t always easy, but has its rewards, he said.
“Most athletic programs are pretty visible in the communities they’re in. You need someone steering the ship and you need someone to be able to keep people on task.”
Richard coached volleyball before taking on the role full-time and said although it was tough to give up coaching, it was worth it in the end.
“Working with a passionate, dedicated, caring group of coaches and my (administration) team here that really care about the student athletes, and ultimately seeing the student athletes compete and succeed would be the best part for sure.”
The job is important since athletics is a big part of life for many students, said Knickle-Currie.
“They are the voice behind supporting and promoting student athletes and recreational programming for the majority of the student body. There’s only so many student athletes and the rest of the student body is much bigger.”
She would like to see another director with a strong vision, much like Schurman had, she said.
“The athletic director has to also have a business sense because there is a great deal of the athletics and recreation that has to provide revenue and be self-sustaining. So I think they also have to come from some kind of business or marketing background.”
Donaldson said the two biggest qualities required for the job are communication and organizational skills.
“They need to be a great communicator. It’s busy, so I think the organizational piece is critical for success, (as well as) their ability to reach out to the community and help build the brand we’re trying to promote.”
Richard also noted the need for a director to find the right level of involvement with the varsity teams.
“The ability to sit back be relevant to the student athletes on your campus and be relevant to your coaches and your staff but not be front and centre and relevant publicly (is important),” he said.
Knickle-Currie has taken on extra responsibilities since Schurman left to ensure the department runs smoothly while the search for a new director takes place.
No one knows how long the search will last, but Schurman agrees the department should focus on finding the right person for the job.
“I think the process the school (has) outlined is a very solid process. I think the committee’s going to do a really good job of working through the various applicants.
“It doesn’t need to happen overnight. It would be nice if it does, but you want the right person.”