WSU athletic director Pat Chun leaving for same job at rival Washington, per reports

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PULLMAN – Washington State’s athletic department is losing brass by the day.

Athletic director Pat Chun is leaving for the same job at rival Washington, according to multiple reports, leaving WSU without two key figures: an athletic director and a men’s basketball coach, following Kyle Smith’s departure for Stanford on Monday.

Chun, whose WSU tenure began in January 2018, is filling the vacancy left by previous UW AD Troy Dannen’s exit for Nebraska last week. At Washington State, Chun worked as a representative on the College Football Playoff committee and oversaw WSU’s place in conference realignment following the Pac-12’s dissolution last summer.

Chun, who also worked for 15 years at Big Ten school Ohio State, made several key hires at WSU: Smith, who led the men’s hoops program to its first NCAA Tournament since 2008; women’s basketball coach Kamie Ethridge, whose team won the Pac-12 Tournament title last year and is enjoying its third straight postseason bid; and football coach Jake Dickert, whose promotion from defensive coordinator to head coach has led to a 15-16 record with two wins over Wisconsin.

Chun also hired former WSU football coach Nick Rolovich, who was fired early in the 2021 season for failing to comply with the state COVID-19 vaccine mandate. That led to Dickert’s initial promotion to interim head coach and his eventual move to full-time head coach.

“It is truly an honor for my family and I to join the University of Washington family,” Chun said in a news release, “and I look forward to doing my part to help elevate the athletics program and the University.”

Chun’s candidacy for the UW job, according to ESPN, was made possible by the experience he gained at Ohio State. There, one of his duties included working as the administrative liaison with the football program and learning the ways of fundraising, which will figure prominently during his tenure in Seattle.

It’s a largely unprecedented move by Chun, whose WSU program was spurned at the last minute by Oregon and Washington’s defections to the Big Ten last August.

The Cougars now do not have an athletic director to hire a new men’s basketball coach, which puts the program in a tight spot. That duty might be priority No. 1 for WSU’s new AD.

The Cougars are entering a period of unknown, one of two Pac-12 programs left behind in conference realignment. The football team struck a deal with the Mountain West for six games this season, and the basketball teams did the same with the West Coast Conference, operating as affiliate members as WSU and Oregon State attempt to use a two-year grace period to rebuild the conference.

Potential Chun replacementsBryan Blair, Toledo ADWhen Blair became the Toledo athletic director in May 2022, he had just come from WSU, where he worked as deputy AD and chief operating officer for four years. In Pullman, he managed the school’s Nike contract, served as the chief diversity officer in athletics and oversaw the development of WSU’s athletic strategic plan. During his tenure, the Cougars doubled yearly fundraising to more than $30 million and secured 50 of the top 70 largest gifts in program history.

Since Blair took the job at Toledo, the Rockets have won Mid-America Conference championships in football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, women’s cross country, men’s tennis and women’s tennis – the first school in the history of the FBS to win conference titles in those six sports in one season.

The Toledo football team went on to win the Boca Raton Bowl, becoming the first Rockets team to win a MAC title and a bowl game in 21 years. Last year’s Toledo women’s hoops team defeated No. 5 seed and Big 12 champion Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Rockets’ first win in the NCAAs in 27 years.

The WSU women’s basketball team hosts Toledo on Thursday night in the WBIT quarterfinals. Maybe Blair will be in Pullman for the game.

Leon Costello, Montana State ADUnder Costello’s watch, the Bobcats’ football and men’s and women’s hoops teams have soared in recent years. The men’s basketball team just captured its third straight Big Sky Tournament title, the women’s basketball team made the NCAA Tournament in 2022, and the football team made the FCS playoffs semifinals in 2022, with a title game appearance the year prior.

Costello may not have many ties to the state of Washington or the Northwest, but he’s coming up on the eight-year anniversary of his start date as MSU AD. Would he be interested in a promotion in Pullman?

John Johnson, Portland State ADThe WSU senior associate athletic director from 2004-2019, Johnson focused on external operations, facility development and strategic planning in Pullman. In 2017, when former WSU AD Bill Moos was hired at Nebraska, Johnson served as interim athletic director, yielding to Chun, who was hired in January 2018.

A Spokane Valley native, Johnson then went to Nebraska, where he worked as a senior deputy AD from 2019-2021, overseeing the administration office and the Nebraska men’s hoops program. In 2022, he went to Portland State.

But Johnson’s most professional experience came at WSU, where he worked with former AD Jim Sterk. Johnson had oversight of the Cougar Athletic Fund, and when former AD Bill Moos arrived in 2010, Johnson oversaw the development of the department’s facilities master plan, managing the design of the Martin Stadium (now Gesa Field) renovation, a $120 million project that included the construction of a new press box, club seating and suite areas.

Few candidates out there have Johnson’s knowledge of Washington State.

Ike Ukaegbu, WSU deputy ADOne of three WSU deputy athletic directors, Ukaegbu has worked at WSU the past two years, and he might be a good candidate if university president Kirk Schulz wants to hire from within. His last job was at TCU, where he spent seven years overseeing the school’s athletics compliance operations, and he’s held positions at VCU, Boise State, Cal State Fullerton, American University and Florida Atlantic.

Anne McCoy, WSU deputy ADMcCoy is another strong candidate if WSU does hire from within the school. She has been at Washington State since 2001, ascending to deputy AD in 2013, where she now supervises WSU’s day-to-day operations and works as sport supervisor for men’s and women’s basketball, soccer and rowing.

A past vice president of the Pac-10, McCoy has the most experience of any other candidates at WSU.

Perhaps the only worry for Schulz: Her daughter, Taylor, swam at WSU and graduated in 2022. Her son, Jake, is a high school junior, and he is committed to swim at Tennessee. Is it possible McCoy and her husband, Brian, look to move elsewhere once both of their children are out of the house?

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