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Amy Folan's impressive fundraising chops at Texas wins her AD job at CMU

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Central Michigan has hooked its next athletic director.

Amy Folan, who has spent 17 years at the University of Texas and in recent years overseen record-fundraising for the athletic department, has been hired to lead a Central Michigan feeling the heat of a budget crunch amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the university announced Tuesday morning. Folan will officially take over the job Oct. 5 on a four-year deal worth about $290,000 annually.

Amy Folan, left, with her family, is Central Michigan's new athletic director.

Central Michigan president Bob Davies said Folan emerged from an initial candidate list of about 70, which was cut to 20, then 10, then seven, and finally a final three. Folan's extensive background in generating revenue was a huge selling point.

"That requires innovation," Davies said. "That requires leadership."

Folan emerged from a list of three finalists that included Michigan State deputy athletic director Alan Haller and Arizona assistant vice president, COO and CFO Derek van der Merwe, who previously spent years in Central Michigan's athletic department and was considered the early favorite following Michael Alford's resignation this summer.

Folan replaces Alford, who left to become CEO of Seminole Boosters at Florida State. Alford was named Central Michigan's athletic director in May 2017. Rachel Blunt had been interim athletic director.

At Texas, Folan oversaw the Longhorn Foundation, overseeing six of the program's most successful fundraising years. It now has its largest alumni membership, and $116.5 million in contributions.

At Central Michigan, she takes over an athletic department that earlier this year cut the men's track and field program to save about $600,000 a year. Additional significant financial challenges remain in Mt. Pleasant, regardless if the Mid-American Conference decides to reinstate fall football. The MAC publicly remains committed, for now, to playing in the spring, though a final decision on fall football is expected by Monday.

"I'm ready to tackle those challenges head-on," Folan said of the budget issues. "Every dilemma."

Davies said he doesn't anticipate Central Michigan having to cut additional sports teams in the near future, and said an additional men's team will be added within the next two years to take the space of track and field. Men's golf is one possibility. Central Michigan had received a two-year NCAA waiver allowing it to drop below the minimum number of sponsored men's teams, with the understanding one would be added back as the financial picture improved.

Folan has been at Texas since 2002, and previously worked for the NCAA and University of Georgia. Folan played soccer at the University of Connecticut.

Folan will become Central's first female athletic director, and will be the second current Division I athletic director in the state, along with Western Michigan's Kathy Beauregard.

Folan and husband Joseph Russo have two children, Anelio and Giada.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984