Doug Elgin is in his 28th year as Missouri Valley Conference commissioner, but he knew former Northern Iowa athletic director Troy Dannen would have a much shorter stint in his position.
Dannen, hired as Tulane athletic director Wednesday after spending seven years at his alma mater, always appeared headed for a bigger job, Elgin said. He will have his introductory press conference at 11 a.m. Friday in the Glazer Club at Yulman Stadium.
“You know right away when you’re in a job like this those individuals who are going to move up the ladder,” Elgin said. “I hate to put it that way, but his goal was to get to an FBS institution, and it was pretty clear that he had the skills and the experience to make that happen.”
It was not just one characteristic of Dannen that stood out to Elgin. It was his entire package as he ran an athletic department that, like most smaller state schools, operated on a limited budget.
Dannen accomplished a lot with a little, and Elgin does not see any downside to his move from a public university in a small city (Cedar Falls had a population of 39,260, according to the 2010 U.S. census) to a private school in a big city.
“He had a good work ethic and a really strong business sense,” Elgin said. “We’ve had a lot of really good ADs in our league, but he’s certainly one of them that stands out. I don’t think the private school profile is going to detract from his contributions there in any way, shape or form. He’ll be a great fit in New Orleans, and he’ll be someone who can make a difference and hire really good coaches and administrators around him.”
Dannen inherited good coaches at Northern Iowa, so his selection of a football coach at Tulane will be the first high-profile hire of his career. The only new coaches in his tenure with the Panthers came in soccer, swimming and diving, women’s tennis, wrestling and track and field.
Still, Elgin pointed to Dannen’s retention of sought-after men’s basketball coach Ben Jacobson as evidence of his strength. Jacobson, whose team reached the Sweet 16 in 2010 and went 31-4 last year, twice signed 10-year contract extensions under Dannen even though his salary remains less than $600,000 annually. Coaches of his stature can nearly triple that income when they leave for a power program.
“There is a really good camaraderie on Troy’s staff,” Elgin said. “From the outside looking in, there’s no perfect utopian institution anywhere, but there was a really good momentum and chemistry in the athletic department at Northern Iowa.”
Football coach Mark Farley is in his 15th year, boasting a record of 128-60 entering an FCS quarterfinal playoff game at Portland State on Saturday.
Jacobson, in his 10th year, is 202-106, having averaged nearly 22 wins per season while winning the Missouri Valley coach of the year award three times.
Volleyball coach Bobbi Petersen, who is about to complete her 16th season, led Northern Iowa to seven consecutive NCAA tournament berths from 2006 to 2012. The Panthers will face Marquette in the first round of the 2015 tournament Friday.
If Dannen wants some advice on whom to hire as football coach, he won’t have to go far.
Tulane AD search committee head Doug Hertz said he was contacted directly or indirectly by 15 people who wanted the coaching job or wanted to procure it for their client.
“Most of this happened before CJ (Curtis Johnson) had been relieved of his duties,” Hertz said. “I kept saying to them, ‘Look, I’m chairing the search for the athletic director, and whenever we hire a new AD, I will pass it all along to him or her.’ ”
Dannen flew to New Orleans from Cedar Falls on Thursday to meet with the athletic administrators and coaches. ... If Dannen prefers the same path to success at Tulane he experienced at Northern Iowa, the Green Wave will have a buttoned-down approach. The Panthers football team has run 563 times while throwing 278 times this year, ranking 16th in the FCS in rushing (228.8 yards) and 94th in passing (162.6 yards).