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Searching for DOCTOR Gross's Replacement: Who's the Next Syracuse Athletic Director?

Today's news means there's going to be a new Syracuse athletic director. So who could it be?

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

DOCTOR Daryl Gross is officially out as Syracuse's athletics director. You probably knew this was coming, but that doesn't change the fact that Syracuse will definitely have a new AD come the 2015-16 academic year. For the time being, we'll look to long-time Orange staffer Pete Sala as the interim director until a true replacement is named. Sala could conceivably be that guy, though he'd need to denounce his committee membership on the search in order to be thrown into the mix. So for now, we'll leave him out.

Beyond Sala, your OTHER potential candidates for the Syracuse University athletic director position, based on a mix of connections to Chancellor Kent Syverud, SU and some rising stars in the industry:

Sitting Athletic Directors

Kevin Anderson, Athletic Director, Maryland

I'll file this one under "not going to happen," due to a variety of reasons, but it's hard to ignore his year-to-year contract situation going forward, as well as his experience in New York state already (was at Army before Maryland). On the other hand, it's easy to ignore him for the same contract status, as well as Maryland's inability to balance a budget while under his direction. Money problems were definitely near the top of Syverud's list on the Gross decision (among other things), so someone who can't keep a checkbook tidy is unlikely to be a top choice. Still, a name to keep an eye on.

Warde Manuel, Director of Athletics, Connecticut

Not the "sexiest" or most feasible pick by any means, but there are definitely factors that could motivate Manuel to make the jump northward to SU. He's a football guy from his time at Michigan when he played, and that Wolverines connection could play a role for Syverud, who has two degrees from UM. Like Anderson, he's familiar with New York -- was athletic director at Buffalo for six years -- and has previous experience managing academics for Georgia Tech athletes. Manuel is presiding over a sinking ship on the gridiron, which is a minus, but the other sports -- including and especially basketball -- have done well during his tenure. If he wants to step up to a power conference, it's worth talking to him.

John Hardt, Director of Athletics & Recreation, Bucknell

On paper, this may not seem like the biggest fit, BUT a quick look toward the bottom of Hardt's resume lets you know that he was a compliance officer at Syracuse once upon a time. That's not the type of thing that wins you a job, but it's certainly a factor for an Orange program trying to get back on track in that department and also (potentially) add someone who "gets us." On top of the SU ties, Hardt's done a great job growing athletics at Bucknell and fundraising -- both important toward what we need here. Expect to hear his name a few times in the search news.

Scott Barnes, Vice President & Athletics Director, Utah State

Scott has no Syracuse ties, admittedly, but his cred is built on a phenomenal job fundraising for Aggies athletics, as well as making USU football incredibly relevant out of virtually nowhere (oh hey, we sort of need that expertise, right?). There are some turnoffs for SU fans -- in particular that he'd be another California "mercenary" sent here to fix things en route to a bigger, better position, but I'm willing to look past that. He's likely to stay West, but not an awful idea to gauge his interest in a move just the same.

Brian Wickstrom, Director of Athletics, UL-Monroe

This one's entirely based on potential, since Wickstrom's done a nice job at ULM and looks to continue to grow that Warhawks athletic program. The drawback -- that he's very much a climber, not a long-term solution -- could be seen as both a positive and negative depending on your vantage point. No real big takeaways on Wickstrom's resume beyond where he is now, and where he's been -- most notably Missouri, a fellow power conference school. Watch out for his name either with SU or elsewhere.

Tommy McClelland II, Director of Athletics, Louisiana Tech

When your resume says "rising star" in the text, does that mean you're actively trying to get hired? Probably. But McCelland has done a very good job at LaTech in his short time there, and his relative youth could make him an asset in terms of fundraising, visibility, etc. His ties are in a variety of spots, including McNeese State, Northwestern State and North Carolina -- plus some links to USC (oh no!) and UConn as well. He's focused on fundraising (again, big plus) and academic success, which we do need around Syracuse. Not a likely call, but let's keep an eye on him.

Rising Athletic Administrators

Chris Kennedy, Senior Deputy Director of Athletics, Duke

Duke keeps its athletics people around for quite a while, so pulling them away takes quite an offer. Maybe Syracuse is that offer for Kennedy, who's been with the Blue Devils since 1997 and likely has a great rapport with Coach K -- friend of the Orange athletic program (or at least Jim Boeheim). While he graduated Georgetown a few years before Syverud, the Hoya (ugh) connect is there, and could be another foot in the door for Kennedy who also boasts a strong resume of compliance and academic success with Duke's student athletes.

Chrissi Rawak, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Development, Michigan

Rawak is Michigan born-and-bred, having played sports and received her undergrad there -- plus, we've already discussed the Syverud ties to UM. Hiring a woman for the role would be a progressive thing to do, and Syverud's conscious of that. But she's under consideration here for merit most importantly. There are some red flags, like two separate communications degrees that could have SU fans having DOCTOR Gross flashbacks already. But Rawak would be a fresh face for the Orange, and one that could use her extensive alumni outreach experience to the program's advantage.

Carla Williams, Deputy Director of Athletics, Georgia

Based on our internal TNIAAM discussion, Williams may be the clubhouse favorite. While she's a Georgia alum and long-time employee, she has experience elsewhere at Florida State and Vanderbilt -- that last one being pretty important due to Syverud's own ties to the university. Her primary responsibilities have centered on academics, as well as women's sports -- which should both be pluses for any potential Syracuse AD. Despite no direct football experience, she very clearly understands how to achieve success in the sport, given SEC and Tallahassee backgrounds. She's among the top names to watch in this search.

Julie Vannatta, Senior Assistant General Counsel/Senior Associate Athletic Director, Ohio State

You don't hire a guy as intelligent as Syverud and expect him to make a conventional AD pick. This is where someone outside-the-box like Vannatta could get the call. As we know, the chancellor's advisor, Jeff Kaplan is a former SVP at Ohio State and will be influential in any and all hiring decisions he makes. That could mean some Buckeye favoritism, which given that program's success... maybe not the worst thing ever. Vannatta's background is both athletic and legal, she'll run a tough ship and stress compliance over everything else. If Syracuse wants to make even more moves to stay in line with the NCAA, someone who's worked on the NCAA general counsel and advisory board wouldn't be a bad move at all.

Miechelle Willis, Deputy Director of Athletics, Ohio State

Willis is another candidate whose entire list of ties are based on Ohio State -- but again, that's not a bad thing. She understands how to raise funds for athletics, understands the challenges of power conferences and football, and also has a presence with women's sports. She's spent a lot of time in Columbus, while also excelling at Temple. Plus, with a student services background, you'd have to think she'd much better understand how to keep things afloat in that department. Not as outside-the-box as Vannatta, but still, another Buckeye we should keep an ear out for during the search process.

UPDATE: Would also add another name (not under the two headers above) to the list:


Plenty of other names we could throw around here based on any number of athletic department or Syverud ties, as well as just wild conjecture. But at least this is a good starting point.

Anyone else you'd toss into the ring? Weigh in down in the comments.