College notes: Oakland wants next AD with fundraising chops

Tony Paul

Oakland University is looking for a master fundraiser and marketer in its search for its next athletic director, and it hopes to have the position filled by the start of August.

The university recently named a search panel and hired a national search firm.

This comes more than three months after Jeff Konya left to become athletic director at Northeastern.

“It’s not really a delay,” said Glenn McIntosh, Oakland’s vice president for student affairs and chief diversity officer, who is heading the committee. “We wanted to really assess athletics and some of the things we’re shooting to do at the university. We wanted to make sure we had a clear understanding with athletics and the broader picture for Oakland.

“We spent the better part of the last several months doing that, and really getting to know the athletic department, the personnel at hand, and which way we want to go as a university.”

McIntosh said new Oakland president Ora Pescovitz is “very much” committed to athletics, which has been a big ambassador for the commuter school’s brand, particularly with men’s basketball.

McIntosh said he ideally would like an athletic director with previous leadership experience at a major university, though it’s not a requirement. He spoke highly of interim AD Padraic McMeel.

Konya’s strength was marketing, particularly on the basketball front, and fundraising. And the next AD will have to carry that torch, especially considering the university is moving forward with expensive plans for wide-reaching facility upgrades, most notably the addition of a basketball practice facility.

Right now, the O’Rena serves as the home base for a number of teams, for practices and games, which causes headaches. The basketball teams watch film with a projector showing video on the walls of the O’Rena.

Then there’s the matter of hockey, which Oakland is very interested in adding, both men’s and women’s programs. The university has gotten back its NHL feasibility study, and it shows the Metro Detroit market could sustain the addition of the programs. But it’s only likely to happen if Oakland can fund and build a campus rink, which could run as much as $70 million.

“If someone came in and gave us $100 million, we’d do it tomorrow. I’d be calling you, saying I’ve got breaking news. Do you know anybody?” McIntosh said, with a laugh.

McIntosh and Pescovitz have been bombarded with inquiries regarding the job since Konya left.

Oakland is one of two Division I schools in Michigan with athletic director openings, along with Michigan State. Central Michigan (Michael Alford) and Eastern Michigan (Scott Wetherbee) hired new athletic directors last year.

Both Alford and Wetherbee were associate ADs at their previous stops, Oklahoma and Mississippi State, respectively.

While many universities have struggled with athletic-department finances in recent years, McIntosh said Oakland is on solid footing and is not discussing cutting sports, like Eastern Michigan recently had to do.

That’s good news for the next AD. Wetherbee was blindsided about having to cut sports so soon in his tenure in Ypsilanti and, in a moment of candor, told The News that had he known what was in store, he might not have taken the job.

“We want to take the ball from Jeff Konya,” said McIntosh, “and move it forward, not backward.”

Longtime EMU coach dies

Former Eastern Michigan baseball coach Roger Coryell died earlier this month, at the age of 71. He spent more than 40 years in baseball, as a player, coach and a professional scout.

Most recently, the DeWitt native was a regional scout for the Texas Rangers. He was the Rangers’ scout of the year in 2014.

Coryell was head coach at EMU for 20 years, finishing with 544 wins (second in program history) and 300 Mid-American Conference victories (first in program history). He was a two-time MAC coach of the year, and took the Eagles to the NCAAs in 2003.

He was inducted into the EMU Hall of Fame in 2004.

“Roger will forever be one of the pillars in the history of EMU baseball,” EMU interim head coach Eric Roof said.

During his time at EMU, Coryell coached some real greats, including future major-leaguers such as Matt Shoemaker, Pat Sheridan, Bob Welch and Chris Hoiles.

He pitched three seasons for the Eagles, from 1968-70, helping EMU win the NAIA national championship in 1970. He started the championship game. Coryell signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates after college, but a shoulder injury cut short his career.

Coryell returned to EMU in 1972 as an assistant to legendary coach Ron Oestrike in 1972 — the Eagles made the College World Series in 1975 and 1976 — and was named Oestrike’s successor in 1987.

Coryell retired in 2007, amid some controversy. He was placed on administrative leave for an inappropriate use of the school’s email system. An email to the mother of a player was mistakenly sent to a list-serv of more than 100 recipients.

Basketball bits

Some roster news from across the state:

■ Central Michigan added a pair of transfers, including 6-foot-2 guard Larry Austin Jr., a graduate transfer from Vanderbilt who also has spent time at Xavier. He will be immediately eligible, as will 6-6 power forward Rob Montgomery, a transfer from Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College. Montgomery will have two years of eligibility remaining.

■ Western Michigan announced its 2018 recruiting class, and it includes 6-3 guard Adrian Martin (Georgia), 6-6 forward Kawanise “Squeaky” Wilkins (Chicago) and 6-2 guard William Boyer-Richard (Quebec).

■ Oakland added 6-3 guard Kenny Pittman (Chicago), the No. 7-ranked player in the state of Illinois.

■ The Oakland women signed 5-6 guard Jalisha Terry (Flint) and 5-10 guard Adrian Crockwell (Ohio).

■ The Detroit Mercy women added 5-8 guard Jiera Shears (North Carolina), rounding out a five-member class, and still is awaiting word on a potential game-changing graduate transfer from the Midwest.

■ Meanwhile, the Big Ten announced its women’s conference foes for the 2018-19 season. Michigan and Michigan State will play each other twice. Meanwhile, Michigan gets Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State and Rutgers at home, Illinois, Maryland, Penn State and Purdue away, and Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin home and away. For Michigan State, it gets Illinois, Maryland, Penn State and Purdue at home, Nebraska, Northwestern, Rutgers and Wisconsin away, and Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and Ohio State home and away.

This and that

■ Michigan senior Alex Jones, the coxswain for the rowing team, has won the prestigious Bonderman Fellowship, a $20,000 stipend to travel the world from August through May — including stops in Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro and Greece, among others. Four LS&A students receive the stipend, which rarely goes to a student-athlete.

■ Despite protests by and fundraisers for the four sports that Eastern Michigan recently announced it was cutting, the decision is final, the school confirmed last week. Women’s softball and tennis and men’s swimming and diving and wrestling are the sports being axed, which is said to be saving the university $2.4 million.

■ Spring Arbor University is planning a $1.2-million renovation to SAU Fieldhouse, complete with new bleachers, an upgraded sound system and new scoreboard. The 42-year-old arena will be renamed the McDonald Athletic Center, in honor of former coach Donald A. “Mac” McDonald. Construction will be completed by the fall.

■ Surprisingly, Michigan star guard Katelynn Flaherty hasn’t signed with a WNBA team yet, after going undrafted. Central Michigan’s Tinara Moore signed with the Washington Mystics.

■ Central Michigan women’s basketball coach Sue Guevara will enter the Saginaw County Sports Hall of Fame on Nov. 6, following the Chippewas’ magical run to the Sweet 16.

■ The Wayne State women’s golf team is ranked for the first time in program history, 12th in the recent East Regional Rankings.

■ Detroit Mercy men’s lacrosse alum Jason Weber signed a professional contract with the Atlanta Blaze.