Tulane’s search to replace departing athletic director Rick Dickson is heating up this week.
Among the candidates, five names have emerged, according to multiple sources close to the program. Interviews will happen Thursday and Friday in Atlanta, the hometown of search committee chairman Doug Hertz.
More candidates are expected to be interviewed later, but the first five are Tulane deputy athletic director/chief operating office Barbara Burke, Auburn chief operating officer David Benedict, Baylor deputy athletic director Todd Patulski, Louisiana-Monroe athletic director Brian Wickstrom and University of San Francisco athletic director Scott Sidwell.
“The demand is terrific,” said Jerry Greenbaum, a Board of Tulane member and one of nine people on the search committee. “We have a lot of interest in the position.”
On Sept. 25, Dickson announced he would step down at the end of June after 15 years on the job. The search committee met for the first time Oct. 16, and Hertz said the process would move forward “as expeditiously as possible” on the eve of that first meeting.
“Our job is to find the best available person for the job, and if that takes us an extra three months to find that person, then so be it,” he said. “If we happen upon that person in the first three weeks, then that would be great, but we’re going to take the time that’s necessary to take.”
Burke arrived at Tulane in March 2014 to work as the No. 1 person under Dickson after spending six years as athletic director for Eastern Illinois. Soon afterward, she helped hire baseball coach David Pierce, who broke a six-year regional drought for the Green Wave this spring in his first season on the job after guiding Sam Houston State to at-large berth in all three of his years there.
Eastern Illinois won three Ohio Valley Conference Cups for overall excellence during Burke’s tenure, and teams won a school-record six regular-season titles in 2012-13.
Benedict has been the chief operating office at Auburn since February 2014, directing day-to-day operations of the department. Serving as the sports administrator for Auburn men’s basketball, he played a role in the hiring of controversial but successful coach Bruce Pearl in March 2014.
Pearl led Tennessee to six NCAA tournament berths in six years as coach from 2006-11 before getting fired as a result of recruiting violations.
Before going to Auburn, Benedict was deputy athletic director at Minnesota from 2012-14 after previous stops at Virginia Commonwealth, Long Beach State and Arizona State.
Wickstrom became athletic director at ULM on July 2, 2013. He helped raise private funds for an end zone football facility that is due to be completed in 2016. The men’s basketball team won 24 games and advanced to the championship round of the College Basketball Invitational postseason tournament in 2014-15.
Last weekend, Wickstrom fired football coach Todd Berry after a 59-21 home loss to Arkansas State that dropped ULM to 1-9. Berry had an overall record of 28-43 but took the Warhawks to their only bowl game in 2012.
Before ULM, Wickstrom had stints at UC Riverside, UTEP, Santa Clara and Missouri.
Patulski has been at Baylor since 2003 and was promoted to the No. 2 position in the athletic department in 2009.
During his tenure, the Baylor football team has risen from perennial doormat to Big 12 champion, winning the title outright in 2013 and sharing it with TCU in 2014, when the Bears were one spot away from the inaugural four-team college football playoff.
The Baylor men’s basketball team has been to the NCAA tournament in four of the last six years, reaching the Elite Eight in 2010 and 2012.
Sidwell — a Tulane graduate and the son of former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Steve Sidwell — has been San Francisco AD since 2011. The Dons do not have a football team but play 15 sports.
Sidwell was in the Tulane athletic administration for five years from 2000-05, serving as associate athletic director for corporate development and then as the leader of the external operations staff.
Although more candidates will interview for the Tulane AD job, a source confirmed former Saints executive vice-president Arnie Fielkow was not under consideration.
The Tulane football team practiced at the Saints indoor facility Wednesday because of the rain and wind that arrived overnight. The Wave (3-7, 2-4 American Athletic Conference) plays at SMU (1-9, 0-6) on Saturday night. ... Cornerback Richard Allen still has not passed Tulane’s concussion protocol and is questionable.