Jim Hackett on way out as U-M interim AD

AD SEARCH: U-M is expected to ramp up search for permanent athletic director this week to replace Jim Hackett (pictured). (Detroit Free Press photo)

AD SEARCH: U-M is expected to ramp up search for permanent athletic director this week to replace Jim Hackett (pictured). (Detroit Free Press photo)

ANN ARBOR — The University of Michigan is expected to ramp up its search for a permanent athletic director this week, multiple people with knowledge of the situation told the Detroit Free Press. The permanent athletic director is not expected to be interim athletic director Jim Hackett, sources said.

The people requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. U-M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald and associate athletic director Kurt Svoboda did not immediately return requests for comment.

Sources told the Free Press a search committee likely will be announced this week and that Diversified Search has been hired to help with the search. The timeline for hiring U-M’s next AD is unclear, but multiple sources said Hackett will step aside after the hire has been made, perhaps this month.

Hackett has been the interim athletic director since Oct. 31, 2014, when he took over from Dave Brandon, who resigned under pressure from fans and donors.

Hackett has said he does not want the job permanently. “When I took this job, it was clearly as interim AD,” he said a month into his role. He has consistently reminded those inside and outside of the department that he is the interim AD, even signing the school’s term sheet with Nike this summer by writing the word “interim.”

But no timetable had been set for his departure. Hackett was working under an indefinite appointment for $600,000 per year, plus a residence in Ann Arbor. His previous home base, as the CEO of Steelcase, was in Grand Rapids.

For the most part, Hackett has stayed away from the day-to-day efforts of the athletic department, insisting that his duty was to handle big issues. He brought in former Oregon State athletic director Bob DeCarolis, who had moved back to the Ann Arbor area, as a consultant. Hackett said at the time that DeCarolis was not a candidate for the permanent job. However, given his now extensive knowledge of the department, DeCarolis could make an easy transition to the role.

Hackett explained in February, after three months on the job, that he was able to do his work from California. He has not been nearly the presence around the office and campus that Brandon was and also was far less visible in the media.

From the time he took the job, Hackett quickly leaned on Chrissi Rawak, who was Brandon’s deputy, involved in all aspects of the department. Hackett promoted her to executive senior associate AD in charge of external relations, including communications.

Her title now is executive senior associate AD/chief external relations and design officer.

While she had coverage over many departments, Hackett consolidated the roles over his year, now relying on five primary managers: Rawak, Elizabeth Henrich, in charge of student development and compliance, Rob Rademacher, chief operating officer who deals with many areas, including facilities, Bitsy Ritt, the chief sports administrator, and Darryl Conway, the chief health and welfare officer.

Hackett’s biggest remaining task, should he remain through the football team’s bowl game, might be determining coach Jim Harbaugh’s deferred compensation, which could amount to a significant performance bonus. Harbaugh’s contract was left open-ended, stipulating that within 30 days following the last game of the season, the university will review the status of the program and determine an appropriate deferred-compensation arrangement for him.

Part of Hackett’s initial duties last fall was to help find his replacement, a process that temporarily was shelved as he settled into the role. He also had to assess dissension within the athletic department and eventually reorganized its power structure.

Though he had no recent football experience — the last having played for the Wolverines in the late 1970s — Hackett fired coach Brady Hoke on Dec. 2, 2014. San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was the obvious top option, externally and internally, to replace Hoke, and Hackett set up a team in an office in a Michigan Stadium suite to avoid prying eyes for what he called “Project Unicorn,” designed to land Harbaugh.

Using back channels of Harbaugh’s friends, Hackett felt confident that giving Harbaugh space was the proper approach during the monthlong process. Hackett built a relationship with Harbaugh last December but only offered the job when he was sure Harbaugh that would accept after the 49ers’ season ended.

Hackett was hailed for signing Harbaugh, but it was a job Harbaugh always was intrigued by.

Hackett also received major credit for U-M’s upcoming transition from Adidas to Nike as its apparel provider.

After a series of visits and meetings with Under Armour, Adidas and Nike, U-M signed what was considered the largest apparel agreement in history in early July, a deal that lasts 11 years for a total of $122.3 million. U-M has an option to extend it four more years (for a total of $169 million). Texas signed a Nike deal in October that reportedly will be for a higher total: $250 million over 15 years.

Also interesting, when negotiating high-profile contracts — Harbaugh’s last winter and the extension he gave basketball coach John Beilein last month — Hackett took the unusual approach of removing buyout parameters for early departures. All he asked from the coaches is 30 days’ notice to leave.

I “felt the buyouts, for coaches who want to leave as an incentive to stay, is a dumb idea,” Hackett said in February. “So if he wants to go, we’ve asked him to give us notice, more than a week. It will give me time, or whoever’s in my spot, to conduct a wide (search). I’d hate to make this reference, but it feels to me like indentured servitude.”

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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