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July 1, 2013

Dawn of a new era at Tech

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Louisiana Tech has new and exciting changes taking place this summer. Will history remember this time fondly or with questions of what could have been?

Dr. Les Guice is Tech's first new president in over 25 years. After over 15 years of trying, the Bulldogs have entered Conference USA. With the announcement that Bruce Van De Velde stepped down as Athletic Director, the timing of finding his replacement is critical.

The Bulldogs are coming off of a football season that they haven't had since the late 1990's when they were knocking off BCS teams and winning at a high rate and by high margins. Men's Basketball is winning with exciting play and fans are noticing, which is evident by the rise in attendance in the Thomas Assembly Center. Facilities on campus have started to get the attention they desperately needed in the last few years and with millions raised towards the Quest for Excellence campaign, the south end zone facility needs to be done and done right.

Possible Candidates

Current Athletic Directors

The first name that comes up is Stan Williamson, a Tech grad and the A.D. at West Alabama. Williamson seemed to be on the way up when he was mentioned for the Deputy A.D. job a few years ago. He had led Campbell University through the transition from Division II to Division I. He had also helped raise funds and significant facility improvements. He is now at a Division II school at West Alabama. Is he there to lead them through the same process that Campbell went through in his tenure? Has the time passed him by to be considered for the Tech job?

Dr. Brad Teague is the A.D. at Central Arkansas, another school that made the transition from Division II and greatly improved their facilities. UCA has grown from a school that competed against mostly schools within their state to now being one of the better athletic programs in the Southland Conference.

Charlie Cobb has also seen his school through a transition, but on a larger scale. After spending eight years at North Carolina State, Cobb took over at nearby Appalachian State. He has the right accomplishments on his resume. Facility upgrades, fundraising, and conference promotion. Appalachian State was already Division I, but they are now jumping into FBS football as they join the Sun Belt Conference. Cobb was a front-runner for the job as Southern Mississippi a year ago. In eight years, Cobb helped raise his budget from $7.5 million to $24.5 million.

Up and Comers

There are some up and coming names in the industry that are ready to run their own athletic departments.

Brent Seebohm has spent time at several schools, most recently Arizona and Louisville. Seebohm has vast experience at middle size schools, having worked at Fresno State, Wichita State, Colorado State, and Memphis.

Zack Lassiter has experience at schools that have greatly increased their profile. Utah increased their athletic budget by 26 percent from 2010 to 2012 and they left Mountain West Conference for the Pac 12. UCF hired him after they had already seen huge upgrades in facilities and budget, but now they join the likes of UCONN, Cincinnati, South Florida, and Houston in the AAC.

Another name to watch is Darren Dunn, who has also spent time at Mountain West and AAC schools. Dunn has been at Tulsa, New Mexico, and Houston The latest stop on the ladder for Dunn has been successful as Houston has put together big seasons in football that helped translate into AAC membership.

Dunn, Lassiter, and Seebohm are all currently Associate A.D.'s for External Relations which means they oversee all aspects of marketing, fundraising, branding, and everything associated with generating funds. Cobb spent seven years with the same title at NC State, before getting the chance to run his own department at Appalachian State.

Louisiana Tech needs someone with vision who can also find a way to get where he wants to be. A strong fundraiser will be needed, but also someone respected throughout the country. Tech is in good position in Conference USA, associated with schools like Rice, Southern Miss, UTEP, and Marshall.

Is Conference-USA it?

The Bulldogs have remained a step ahead of former rivals like Arkansas State, ULL, and ULM. Tech is at a crossroads. Can they raise their profile like Central Florida and Boise State did? If Rice and USM move up to the MWC or the AAC, will they be replaced by Arkansas State and ULL? Then where will Tech be? Just another school in a large group of former Sun Belt programs if they don't keep the momentum going forward.

Tech has been in a conference with six of the twelve MWC schools: Boise State, Fresno State, San Jose State, Utah State, Hawaii, and Nevada. Tech has also been in leagues with Central Florida, SMU, and Tulsa of the AAC. How have those schools been able to stay ahead? Is it solely based on market size? Louisiana Tech needs to set a goal of being in one of those two conferences. If you are standing still, then you are moving backwards. Who can raise funds, expand the budget, grow the fan base, develop relationships with peer institutions, and hire the right coaches that can win on the field of play?

This is a very important hire for the university in a very important time in the school's existence. Louisiana Tech has grown drastically in profile in the academic world, now is the time for athletics to do the same.



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