Tulane is moving closer and closer to naming an athletic director to replace the retiring Rick Dickson.
A source confirmed to The Advocate on Monday that school President Mike Fitts interviewed the finalists Sunday, the last major step in the selection process.
Two of them are Tulane deputy athletic director/chief operating officer Barbara Burke and Baylor deputy athletic director Todd Patulski. A third could be Auburn chief operating officer David Benedict, who was part of the initial interview process in Atlanta, but it’s unclear whether he’s still in the running.
Another source indicated to The Advocate that one of the finalists is a candidate who has not been mentioned in reporting on what has been a secretive search.
Search committee chairman Doug Hertz said he anticipated the decision to be made during the week after Thanksgiving, and Tulane has a compelling reason to make its decision in the next few days: The new athletic director will be in charge of picking a football coach to succeed Curtis Johnson, who was fired Saturday.
As of Monday night, 14 Football Bowl Subdivision schools had head coaching vacancies, including fellow American Athletic Conference members Memphis and Central Florida.
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 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 College Football Playoff. Baylor is 9-2 this year and likely will earn a spot in the Sugar Bowl if it beats Texas on Saturday.
Burke arrived at Tulane in March 2014 to work as the top person under Dickson after spending six years as athletic director for Eastern Illinois. While at Eastern Illinois, Burke hired former Baylor wide receivers coach Dino Babers. Babers went 12-2 in his second year, guiding EIU to the quarterfinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs before he left for Bowling Green, which he has taken to back-to-back MAC title games in two seasons.
Burke replaced Babers with Kim Dameron, who is 12-12 in two years. Babers, meanwhile, reportedly is a top target for UCF’s opening.