If social distancing restrictions continue to be lifted, Nicholls State University could potentially have its next athletics director by mid-to-late June.
In January, Nicholls announced that Athletics Director Matt Roan would be leaving his position after three years with the Colonels to accept the same role at Eastern Kentucky University. Lindsey McKaskle, executive associate athletics director for internal affairs, assumed the position of interim athletics director when Roan left at the end of January.
McKaskle said the search for the next athletics director came to a standstill due to the social distancing measures put into place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the athletics department has narrowed down its list of candidates to bring to campus for the final stages of the process.
“We had hoped things would open up a little earlier, but obviously they haven’t, and so right now we’re looking toward hopefully the first of June to be able to hopefully bring those candidates on and [finish] up that process,” McKaskle said.
Though an exact timeline remains uncertain, McKaskle said “in a perfect world,” the university would have its decision by the middle or end of next month.
“That’s hoping that everything kind of goes to plan [and] the fact that we actually go into Phase Two of the state’s plans and that we’re able to have more people on campus and…do the things that we’d like to do,” McKaskle said. “If everything goes to plan, I think we’d love to have somebody…mid-to-late June.”
However, even after the selection is made, another challenge will arise with getting the new director on campus and getting them settled, McKaskle said.
In addition, the next director will have to navigate the “new normal” for sports moving forward.
On March 14, the Southland Conference suspended the remainder of its spring athletic competitions and championships. On Wednesday, the SLC board of directors approved a new set of competitive standards for the 2020-2021 academic year that will affect postseason competitions for some sports, including baseball, women’s soccer, softball, volleyball and tennis.
McKaskle said, though the earlier rounds of the selection process involve more basic questions, the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic will likely become a topic of discussion with candidates as the search progresses.
“I think those will be some heavy topics that will be covered in the next round of interviews for sure,” McKaskle said.
McKaskle said the top quality the university is looking for in its next athletics director is someone who puts student-athletes first in all regards.
In addition, the candidate will need to be able to help to raise money in the midst of current financial uncertainties due to the loss of spring sports and tournaments.
“Right now, obviously one of the biggest things we’re looking for is somebody that is able to kind of come in and help us fundraise and generate some revenue because right now, I think every Division I institution in the country, their financial situations are so uncertain just in regards to loss of revenue,” McKaskle said.
Though dealing with the effects of a pandemic is not a situation in which McKaskle expected to find herself during her time as interim director, she said she is thankful for the support Nicholls athletics have continued to receive during this time.
She also said it is encouraging to see progress being made toward getting sports back up and running.
On Wednesday, the NCAA voted to lift its ban on on-campus activities starting June 1, thus allowing football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball to begin voluntary workouts.
“The support for the Colonels hasn’t wavered. We’ve seen that…We’re still here, and I think that we’re starting to see things open back up,” McKaskle said. “Nobody knows what the future holds for the fall, but I do think it is encouraging to see that those baby steps are being taken.”