NAU Athletics undergoing administrative changes

 
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BY LUMBERJACK REPORTING STAFF —

NAU Athletics is facing more changes than just team records — an interior transformation is taking place within the department. On March 27, three assistant athletic directors were informed their contracts would not be renewed, totaling seven employee departures  from the athletics department in the past four months.

This story was updated on April 22, 2013 to reflect changes made in the print edition of The Lumberjack. 

Steve Shaff, assistant athletic director for media relations will not return for his 14th season at the university. Shaff was responsible for the day-to-day media operations of the football, men’s basketball and women’s golf teams. Additionally, Shaff oversaw a staff that ran the publicity effort for the athletics department and served as media liaisons. George Fox worked as assistant athletic director for equipment operations for three years, but had been involved with NAU athletics for 12 years. Mike Giedlin moved to Flagstaff two years ago from Norfolk, Va. to serve as assistant athletic director for fiscal operations.

Walkup Skydome Events Coordinator Richard Grijalva was terminated after being arrested in December. He plead “no contest” to sexual assualt on April 9. Dave Brown, director of the Walkup Skydome and former liaison of Arizona Cardinals, retired soon after. Also recently departed are former Director of Annual Giving Andrew Kempe and Director of Development Jason Roundy.

 

The moves come on the heels of Lisa Campos, vice president of intercollegiate athletics at NAU. Campos was given her title by President Haeger in March 2012, coming from El Paso, Texas, where she served as senior associate athletic director at the University of Texas-El Paso.

Haeger designed her position to help remodel the athletic department and enhance the communication with the university board.

“I made a really important choice there. If you followed the Rutgers story or Penn State story . . . how do those things happen? The way those things happen is because athletics becomes a silo onto itself and nobody knows what is going on over there,” Haeger said. “So I decided to create a vice president of intercollegiate athletics who will sit with leadership of the institution and communicate, so that never happens.”

Haeger has shown his support for the growth of athletics at NAU. The 2012 and 2013 Fiscal Year budgets showed an increase in salaries within the athletic department. Sources say the department will see an even larger increase for FY2014.

“We also wanted to up the profile of NAU Athletics . . .We wanted to do that for a couple reasons. Like it or not, this culture is all about athletics and we were pretty mediocre in some cases,” Haeger said. “I told Lisa . . . make it better. What she is doing from those looking in from the outside, she’s building her team. She’s bringing in people she believes will take us to the next level.”

Campos’ changes in the department came long before March; after she was hired, she began to move a series of people in the department. Jack Murphy was hired as the head men’s basketball coach in April 2012 and Sue Darling was hired as the head women’s basketball coach in June 2012.

“For the last 11 months, of course I have been evaluating our entire athletic department and I have been charged to elevate this program, so obviously with evaluation comes change,” Campos said.

The building of Campos’ team was a change the department expected, but the loss of long-term NAU employees was a shock for some.

Fox, one of the three assistant athletic directors who was let go on March 27, has lived in Flagstaff for the past 12 years. Both he and his wife were university employees, and his daughter graduated from NAU in 2005.

“It’s a thing where you are working at your desk one minute and 15 minutes later you are being escorted out of the building. That’s just weird,” Fox said.

In regards to being escorted out of his office in the Walkup Skydome, Fox said, “I think that’s university standard protocol. I would have thought or hoped that they would recognize 12 years of service and spare me that humiliation, but they didn’t . . . so it’s all good.”

Giedlin, who had been at NAU for a little more than two years, has sent out his resume to other universities in hopes of finding a new job.

“I just sent my resume out to other universities and jobs that interest me. If it happens that I have to move away from Flagstaff ,then that’s what we will do, I have to make sure my family is all on board,” Giedlin said. “I think it’s a part of the industry I work in… sometimes a new leader comes in who will make lots of changes and often work things a little differently.”

Though Campos made the authoritative decision to release the three assistant directors, she was reportedly not the one to break the news to them.

When asked if Campos was the one to call them in that morning, Fox said, “No she did not. I was informed by Beth Vechinski.”

Vechinski is the associate athletic director of internal operations. Emails sent to school accounts of Fox and Giedlin are answered by an automated response informing the sender to contact Vechinski.

Campos said she could not comment on any specific circumstances of employees or former employees.

“There’s really no comments, obviously those are all personnel situations, and we are just trying to elevate the program,” Campos said.

Haeger was also unable to make any specific comment on the issue, but said, “The supervisor of staff has in no way any obligation to renew contracts, so those people were just not renewed,” Haeger said.

The three assistant athletic directors were all on record saying they wished the department the best of luck.

In 2011, Shaff was awarded the President’s Achievement Award, the university’s highest recognition for NAU employees. He expressed his hopes for the department’s future.

“The current administration has decided to go in a different direction and that’s their right to do that. I wish them the best of luck in the future and am sorry that I am not part of it,” Shaff said.

While declining to comment on the personnel matters of the athletic department, Mitch Strohman, NAU play-by-play announcer of 13 years overall, said he believes Campos has a vision of excellence for the department.

“Clearly she has a goal for this athletic department that includes outstanding performances from both within the department at the employee and staff level to the student athlete level,” Strohman said. “She has a vision of an athletic department that will be competitive at the top of the Big Sky Conference and in order to do that she envisions the type of athletic infrastructure to support and foster that.”

There are 10 vice presidents under Haeger, including Campos.  Major decisions are taken under the president’s advisement.

“Oh yeah, there’s a rule among the V.P.s — don’t surprise the president,” Haeger said.

Campos is currently in the process of hiring new employees to join the NAU community.

“We are in the process of hiring a lot of different positions, some are new and some are filling vacancies that we have had.  So, a lot of those are in our external operations. We have our development folks we just hired that replaced two of our development folks from vacancies from last semester,” Campos said. “We are hiring some external folks to bring more publicity and exposure to NAU.”

Abigail O’Brien and Cody Bashore contributed to this report.

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