Higher Education, Human Resources, and Sports Business

Ex-furniture exec winds down as U-M athletic director

December 2, 2015
| By Pat Evans |
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Jim Hackett Harbaugh
Jim Hackett, right, chats with Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh. Courtesy University of Michigan

The former top executive at a local office furniture maker is winding down as interim athletic director at the University of Michigan.

National search

U-M said today that Jim Hackett — the retired CEO of Steelcase who took over the position on an interim basis last fall — will serve until a permanent replacement is found as the school now launches a national search.

Hackett never put a timetable on his tenure, but speculation abounded that it wouldn’t be permanent.

U-M said an advisory committee appointed by U-M President Mark Schlissel will conduct the search for an athletic director. Schlissel will chair the committee.

"I have decided that the time is right to launch a national search for a permanent athletic director," Schlissel said. "I will take as long as necessary to make sure it is a great fit for what I think is the best opportunity for an athletic director in the country."

Hackett will serve on the search committee. There is no timetable for the search.

“I am still interim,” Hackett said in a Business Journal Q&A in October. “The reason for that is, in the beginning, we weren’t sure how long my term needed to be. There were a number of issues that were sitting on the president’s desk, and — I know this sounds like a head fake, but it’s the truth — rather than say, ‘Here’s a stopwatch, and here’s how long you’re here,’ he handed me a number of the issues and said, ‘Can you help me with these?’

“I constructed a reality with my wife and myself that I won’t worry about the interim title or any of this. Just go to work. I’m still busy.”

Hackett as AD

Schlissel has been happy with Hackett’s time as athletic director, and Hackett does not wish to be considered for the permanent position.

As athletic director, Hackett has hired Jim Harbauch as head football coach, helped sign a record-setting apparel deal with Nike and extended the contracts for basketball coaches John Beilein and Kim Barnes Arico.

"Jim Hackett has been an exceptional interim AD," Schlissel said. "I could not have asked for more from a leader. He stepped up at a moment of need and has served the institution with great distinction. Personally, he has been a pleasure to work with, and I will always owe him a debt of gratitude.”

Search committee

Along with Schlissel and Hackett, the athletic director search committee includes several other people: Schlissel’s special counsel, Liz Barry; U-M English language and literature professor Anne Curzan; women’s track team co-captain Corinne Harris; executive vice president and CFO Kevin Hegarty; Dr. Stefan Humphries, a former U-M football player and director at Nevada’s Renown Rehabilitation Hospital; and Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins.

The search will be assisted by Turnkey Search, a subsidiary of Turnkey Sports and Entertainment.

From the AD job description

U-M also shared today some of what it's looking for in a new athletic director.

  • The highest levels of personal and professional integrity and trustworthiness
  • A strong commitment to the health, safety, personal development and academic success of the university's 900 student-athletes
  • Commitment to developing competitive men's and women's sports teams that have the opportunity to compete each year for Big Ten and other championships
  • Demonstrated experience and a strong personal commitment to advancing all aspects of diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Knowledge of intercollegiate athletics administration, skill in fiscal management and insight into the challenges and opportunities of Division I athletics in an academic research setting

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