RALEIGH — Former Raleigh mayor Smedes York will head a 13-member search committee to find a new athletic director for N.C. State, the university announced Wednesday.
N.C. State chancellor Randy Woodson said the university also still plans to hire a national search firm to help identify potential candidates for the position. He has begun conversations with several firms already, Woodson said, and he expects that the university could select one in the next few days.
N.C. State and current athletic director Lee Fowler publicly agreed to part ways last week, but the move had been in the works since March when Jim Woodward, who was then the interim chancellor, told Fowler he would have several weeks to find another job before his departure would be made public.
Fowler had lost the support of many fans and donors because of lackluster recent records in football and men's basketball. He has held the post for 10 years, and State has said it will honor his $280,000-a-year contract, which lasts until Sept. 20, 2013.
"We are all looking for the same thing - a person to be a strong leader and unite the Wolfpack nation," York said. "I think we have a group that will be a hard-working committee. But we are a nominating committee. Our mission is to come up with three suggestions, and then it'll be up to Chancellor Woodson to make the decision."
Woodson said he was thrilled that York agreed to lead the committee, citing York's wide range of leadership positions in the community and at State, as well as his close ties to the university.
York played basketball for the Wolfpack under legendary coach Everett Case. Chairman of the real estate firm York Properties, York also is a former chairman of the university's board of trustees.
"He brings incredible background and experience to this committee, and he understands the mission thoroughly," Woodson said.
The chancellor went on to say the committee will conduct a thorough national search and should be able to find unusually strong candidates.
"It might be that this is the best [athletic director's] job in the country this year, given the position we're in with athletics, academics and facilities," Woodson said.
No deadline for the new committee has been set, York said, although he expects they will operate within a "60-day or so window."
"Our first meeting will be Monday, and I think all of us are looking forward to getting started," York said.
Fans and pundits have floated the names of several potential candidates, including prominent N.C. State insiders such as Wolfpack Club executive director Bobby Purcell, who has said he is keenly interested. Purcell was a finalist for the job a decade ago but lost out to Fowler.
The search committee will include the perspective of at least one member with ties to the Wolfpack Club. Committee member Ray Rouse is the president of the Wolfpack Club's board of directors.
Woodson said he was open to inside candidates but added that the search would entail a nationwide hunt for the best possible candidate.
"I'm not ruling out anyone, but being the athletic director of a major Division I school that expects to compete at the very top level is a big job, and I'll be looking for a person with all the background and skills that requires," he said.
Committee member David Horning, N.C. State senior associate athletic director and Fowler's top assistant, could have had a shot at the athletic director job himself. But he said that before accepting the post on the search committee, he told Woodson that he would not seek the AD post. Horning said he felt privileged to be included on the committee.
"It's a great honor for me to be able to help the institution," he said.
Woodson said that he would meet with the committee Monday morning to get its work started and that he expected a new athletic director in place by the end of the summer, perhaps as soon as the end of July.
He hasn't set a timetable for appointing an interim athletic director to replace Fowler, who officially steps down on June 30.
Staff writers Caulton Tudor and Ken Tysiac contributed to this report.
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