UNLV completed its search for a new athletic director Tuesday, opting to keep Tina Kunzer-Murphy in the role she took over on an interim basis in July. As the Review-Journal’s Steve Carp reported, Ms. Kunzer-Murphy is the first female AD in the 55-year history of UNLV athletics. While that fact is indeed noteworthy, it was far more important for UNLV President Neal Smatresk to hire the right person for the job. In this case, Mr. Smatresk did just that.
Important public administration positions demand a national search and an open hiring process, and Mr. Smatresk made good on both counts, for which he deserves much credit. Some may now label the national search a waste of resources, but having a stable of outside candidates ultimately helped Mr. Smatresk identify Ms. Kunzer-Murphy as the best choice. He did further due diligence by talking to several UNLV coaches and people in the community, many of whom came out in strong support of Ms. Kunzer-Murphy.
As they should. Ms. Kunzer-Murphy has a long, successful history with college athletics in Southern Nevada. A 1975 UNLV graduate, she played tennis and volleyball for the Rebels, later coached tennis at UNLV, then moved into athletic administration at the school. From 2000 to 2012, she worked as executive director of the Las Vegas Bowl. Her background is extremely important in this instance; the university’s past two athletic directors — Jim Livengood and Mike Hamrick — were outsiders who simply could not make a connection with the community at large and build more support for the university’s athletic programs. Ms. Kunzer-Murphy is uniquely qualified for that aspect of the job.
Mr. Smatresk should be further lauded for showing financial prudence, asking the Board of Regents only to extend Ms. Kunzer-Murphy’s contract for one year, through December 2014, and at a $180,000 salary — by no means peanuts, but in the world of Division I athletics, a bargain. There’s no fat, five-year deal that handcuffs the university and provides little incentive to perform. Ms. Kunzer-Murphy has a year-plus to prove she can do the job, and if she can’t, she will be held accountable, and the university can replace her without handing over a huge check on her way out the door.
The smart bet is she won’t be leaving. The UNLV athletic department has deep financial problems, and the only way out for the short term is better fundraising and better public support for the Rebels. Ms. Kunzer-Murphy is the best person to tackle both those challenges.