Fresno State

Fresno State set to interview five finalists in search for new athletics director

Fresno State interim athletics director Steve Robertello, right, introduces Jonathan Winder as the Bulldogs’ new volleyball coach during a January news conference. Robertello is one of five finalists to become the next athletics director at Fresno State. Interviews with the search committee will start on Thursday, June 14, 2018.
Fresno State interim athletics director Steve Robertello, right, introduces Jonathan Winder as the Bulldogs’ new volleyball coach during a January news conference. Robertello is one of five finalists to become the next athletics director at Fresno State. Interviews with the search committee will start on Thursday, June 14, 2018. ezamora@fresnobee.com

Fresno State leaders will start interviewing candidates to be the Bulldogs' next athletics director on Thursday after identifying five finalists who they believe have the skill set to lead a department that is carrying 21 sports programs and will end the academic year with a budget deficit between $1.5 million to $2 million.

Multiple sources familiar with the search have confirmed the names of four of the five finalists including Steve Robertello, who has served as interim athletics director since Jim Bartko resigned in November 2017.

Also expected to interview this week are former Maryland athletics director Kevin Anderson, now interim athletics director at Cal State Northridge; UC Irvine athletics director Michael Izzi; and Incarnate Word athletics director Brian Wickstrom.

The candidates will interview with a 14-member search committee that's led by Debbie Adishian-Astone, the university's vice president for administration and associate vice president for auxiliary services, and includes university president Joseph Castro.

Football coach Jeff Tedford and swimming coach Jeanne Fleck also are on the search committee, comprised of administrators, coaches, staff, alumni and one student.

The target for a hire, Castro has said, is the end of June.

Robertello, 44, has for the past eight months continued with his duties as deputy athletics director while serving as interim athletics director. In that time he has managed day-to-day operations of the department and made two coaching hires – Fresno State fired Lauren Netherby-Sewell and hired Jonathan Winder as its volleyball coach and hired Justin Hutson as basketball coach after Rodney Terry bolted for a program with greater resources and better facilities at Texas-El Paso.

Also in that time Fresno State scrapped a $60 million renovation of Bulldog Stadium, opting for a plan that will utilize $45 million in university funds to update the seating, restroom and concessions stands inside the stadium and $20 million in private funds to upgrade the student-athlete village, which includes the Duncan Building, Meyers Family Sports Medicine Center, Ricchiuti Academic Center and a strength and conditioning center.

Fresno State had a school-record 60 student-athletes earn Mountain West all-academic team honors in the fall semester including 24 in football and had some success on the field with the football team going 10-4 under Tedford with a division title in the Mountain West Conference and Hawaii Bowl victory. The women's tennis team was Fresno State's only conference champion this school year.

Robertello is a member of the NCAA baseball Division I Selection Committee and this weekend will be in Omaha for the College World Series.

Anderson, 62, resigned as athletics director at Maryland on April 13 toward the end of a six-month sabbatical.

He is a California native and graduate of San Francisco State and led the Terps' athletics department for eight years, which included a move to the Big Ten from the Atlantic Coast Conference and the development of a $196 million plan to renovate and expand Cole Field House. An indoor football practice facility, the first phase of that project, was opened in August 2017.

The Terps won six national championships during his tenure and made 12 national final appearances, winning three titles in women's lacrosse. In 2016, Maryland was tabbed as the 14th-most dominant department in the nation by Business Insider.

But Maryland in 2012 also cut seven sports upon recommendation of a 17-member commission that, according to reports, suggested the department was spread too thin. Maryland had 27 sports programs, five more than the average in the ACC at that time.

Izzi has been the athletic director at UC Irvine since 2007 and over the past seven years the Anteaters have had 34 teams finish in the final Top 25 rankings in their sports and 64 have advanced to NCAA tournaments including a volleyball program that won back-to-back national championships in 2013 and '14.

The Anteaters baseball program in 2014 also advanced to the College World Series.

Izzi, a UCLA graduate, also has extensive fund-raising experience at UC Irvine and before that at Stanford, where he spent 16 years. Izzi led efforts that generated more than $30 million for renovations to Maples Pavilion, $100 million for renovations to Stanford Stadium and $70 million in scholarships endowments.

Wickstrom, 48, was mentioned as a candidate in 2014 when Fresno State hired Bartko to replace Thomas Boeh.

Before Incarnate Word, Wickstrom was the athletics director at Louisiana-Monroe and UC Riverside, leading the Highlanders department from 2011 to 2013. California State University chancellor Timothy White was chancellor at UC Riverside the first two of those years.

Wickstrom is regarded as one of the top fund-raising athletics directors in college athletics and at Louisiana-Monroe secured the top six and nine of the top 10 gift commitments in school history. Among the projects completed was a privately funded football facility that included office space, conference and video rooms and a new locker rooms; it was the first 100 percent privately funded facility on that campus.

The athletics department budget also increased by 22 percent during his tenure.

Wickstrom did not seek to have his contract extended and left Louisiana-Monroe in May 2017 to pursue other opportunities and landed at Incarnate Word in Texas that August.

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
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