By Amit Shilton
Ryerson has taken an active step forward in finding its next athletic director eight months after firing its former sports boss.
Alan Shepard, provost and vice president academic, is helping pick a search committee for the job. The committee will be chaired by Zouheir Fawaz, vice provost students.
Laverne Smith & Associates, a Toronto-based recruiting firm, have been hired to help the committee.
Until now, the school had broadly advertised the position, hoping a qualified candidate would apply. But it proved fruitless, and this year Jean Kennedy was hired as the department’s acting athletic director. Kennedy has repeatedly said that she is acting only as a short-term fix.
“We went out in a particular way initially and we did not get the response or the quality or the quantity,” Fawaz said. “It wasn’t in terms of numbers what we wanted to see.”
Fawaz added that he has also recently seen interest from potential candidates.
“I’ve had people call me. I’ve had serious applicants calling me,” he said. Shepard said the new athletic director will be instrumental in reaching the university’s goals of student engagement and reputation building. Fawaz added that the school is looking for a leader with management experience.
“I’m trying to ensure that athletics has a more prominent place for Ryerson students,” Shepard said.
Ed Mark, director of athletics at George Brown College, said in an interview last month that Ryerson is seen as a danger zone.
“It seems like a mess, like there’s no direction. I feel for them, they deserve something better,” he said. “It’s a disaster.”
Despite his feelings towards the school, Mark said he’d like to take up the job and make a difference.
But Fawaz said he’s not interested in a candidate with that perception of the school. When asked about last year’s problems, Shepard declined to comment, noting he was working at the University of Guelph at the time.
Now, Shepard wants to streamline the position. He has since changed the name to Director of Athletics and re-routed the chain of command. Instead of reporting to Student Services, the athletic director will answer directly to Fawaz.
“It needs to look like what this job would look like at other universities,” Shepard said.
Current interim director Kennedy said the change in the chain of command has helped athletics. When recruiting, Ryerson coaches are now better versed in the programs offered and admissions requirements, she said.
Although no one has been invited to the committee yet, Fawaz said students will be represented in the search.