Examining the McCaffery search committee


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Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly. Oregon State’s Craig Robinson. And for now, Minnesota’s Tubby Smith.

The firm that linked these men with some high-profile vacancies in college athletics in recent years just added another name to its list: the University of Iowa’s Fran McCaffery.

Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta had used Parker Executive Search of Atlanta to help find Todd Lickliter in 2007, and Barta employed the firm again the day after firing him this spring.

Associate Athletics Director Mark Abbott said the UI struck its deal with the firm on March 16 for a fee of $50,000.

The multifaceted firm, whose website claims to have completed more than 1,000 corporate, higher education, and collegiate-athletics assignments, is working with the NCAA to find a new president.

But beyond its website details, Parker seemingly prefers to stay on the sidelines. The company declined to comment for this article, saying its policy is not to handle media inquiries.

Parker was one component in searching for the new Hawkeye headman.

The athletics department established a search committee on March 20 — a typical move for all the school’s hirings. The recruitment manual from the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity encourages the use of such a committee because it “can effect change in the composition of the workforce through the recruitment, selection, and hiring of staff.”

Three years ago when Lickliter was hired, that search committee consisted of six people — Barta, Associate Athletics Director Fred Mims, faculty athletics representative Betsy Altmaier, then-President of the Presidential Committee on Athletics Charles Lynch, and former Hawkeye players B.J. Armstrong and G. Joseph Reddington.

This time around, only five people made up the committee that brought McCaffery from Siena. In addition to Ellie Herman, who is now chairwoman of the Presidential Committee on Athletics, Bobby Hansen, the color commentator on the team’s radio telecasts, served as the lone former Hawkeye player.

After introducing McCaffery to the Hawkeye Nation, Barta said the variety of input from the other four committee members — whose specialties range from basketball to academics to campus life — were critical.

“They’re far better qualified than me to think about those things when it comes to a particular candidate,” Barta said. “So we bounced those things around, but ultimately, I was the one who was going to make the decision.”

Hansen said the top priority from the basketball end of the equation was in the new coach’s style of play. While Lickliter’s schemes favored execution over speed, McCaffery stressed in his introductory press conference that Iowa will now play faster.

“As we narrowed the list down, we knew the qualities that we wanted: Style of play was No. 1, the ability to recruit, and then to do it with honor and integrity,” Hansen said. “Once you went through that, Gary had his list and we all had our lists.

“It was enjoyable, and then when the committee got together, listening to everybody’s input was interesting.”

As Barta reflected upon his second men’s basketball coaching hiring — the third major pick of his Iowa career — he said the two experiences were similar.

But with one difference.

“I thought the fan base was even more energized this time than they were last time, and I can just feel the passion pouring in,” Barta said. “Even though not everyone is going to agree on whom I should have interviewed, whom I shouldn’t have interviewed, whom I ended up hiring, I know this: Everyone wanted the same outcome.”

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