Search firms are bad investments, unless it’s about finding UNLV’s next AD

Full disclosure: I’ve never been much of a search firm guy when it comes to colleges hiring a new athletic director or head coach, never understood paying tens of thousands of dollars for the sake of identifying, vetting and suggesting candidates for a particular position.

Which often just means recycling the same set of names over and over as positions open and colleges are willing to pony up big bucks instead of doing their own legwork.

When full disclosure doesn’t apply: In the case of UNLV and its pursuit of the person who will next run athletics.

It might be the smartest $75,000 (plus expenses) the university ever spends, because if the last year told us anything, conducting searches for significant roles isn’t the greatest strength of those at UNLV.

(See Lunacy, Men’s Basketball).

Todd Turner is president of Collegiate Sports Associates, the firm hired by UNLV to aid in finding a replacement for Tina Kunzer-Murphy, and he was reportedly in town the past few days.

Turner doesn’t talk much. He is said to be more confidential than the doctor holding your test results.

It’s probably for the best. The last thing UNLV needs is more guesses/rumors/leaks/fiascos surrounding a search.

It was announced in October that Kunzer-Murphy would depart her post as athletic director and transition to a new role in university fundraising after the current academic year, but it’s possible Turner will soon forward select names of candidates to president Len Jessup and the timetable be accelerated.

As it always does for someone in a position of authority, time will judge Kunzer-Murphy’s performance sitting in the head chair, but a change is needed for all involved, and I’d be surprised if anyone at UNLV disagrees.

We have reached the point where fans are now publicly engaging Kunzer-Murphy in disparaging ways at basketball games. I’m never going to agree purchasing a ticket affords anyone the right to verbally accost a university official in this manner, nor do I think it’s justified to have someone thrown out of an arena for doing so.

You shouldn’t get tossed for being an idiot, because then half the arenas nationally would be empty.

It’s just messy all the way around at UNLV.

It’s also vital to the department this switch occur sooner than later. The approaching spring is a significant one for the Rebels as they look toward marketing a third season under football coach Tony Sanchez. UNLV will soon have the Vegas Golden Knights from which to compete for the public’s discretionary dollars, never mind if the Raiders ever really come to town. Selling the Rebels, no matter the sport, is going to be a lot tougher in the coming years.

Jessup also is said to be on a short list for candidates to become the next president at Arizona, where he served as dean of the Eller College of Management from 2011 to 2014. I would think any finalist to become UNLV’s next athletic director would want an answer from Jessup as to if the president who makes this hire is going to be around for the foreseeable future.

Here’s hoping the search Turner conducts is thorough, that UNLV can move past its often small-time ways of thinking, and a person with ties to and has worked for a Power 5 Conference is identified, who has the long-term vision badly needed.

This isn’t a time to get old friends an interview or take a chance by thinking outside the box or push a candidate out of some silly sense of loyalty or past ties.

It’s a serious time, and UNLV needs to act the part.

UNLV doesn’t necessarily need to win the news conference, but a “wow” moment never hurts. This is a 24/7 job. It all begins from the inside-out. It can’t be a retirement gig.

Relatively young. Incredibly energetic and intelligent. Savvy. Power 5 experience. The person should have all of those attributes, and if they can somehow negotiate and change that foolish truth about athletics not having direct oversight at facilities such as the Thomas & Mack Center, all the better.

(Good luck with that, by the way).

Jessup has formed a 17-person campus committee to meet with and offer input on candidates. Nothing wrong with that. It’s standard procedure for such a hire.

The process is heating up, signified by the guy running the search visiting Las Vegas. His firm is getting paid a nice sum to bring forth a handful of names.

Usually, I would say that’s a bad investment.

Not so at UNLV.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at or 702-383-4618. He can be a heard on “Seat and Ed” on Fox Sports 1340 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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