Big changes are coming in UPEI’s athletic department and it goes right to the top.
UPEI athletics director Bill Schurman, who has held the position since Feb. 4, 2013 on a term-contract basis, told the university during the past week he would not be continuing in the position, the university announced Thursday.
The announcement came at the same time as UPEI released the seven recommendations of a third-party review of the department, but vice-president administration and finance Jackie Podger said Schurman’s decision wasn’t connected to the review.
“Bill has a lot of irons in the fire and he’s a very in-demand type of person because he has a great skill set,” Podger said. “That’s probably why that came about.”
She commended Schurman for his work during tough financial circumstances.
“He did exactly what I asked him, and that was to balance the budget,” Podger said.
Calls to Schurman were not returned on Thursday.
Schurman’s departure will take effect in late August. The university will post the position, shortlist and interview candidates during the hiring process.
“Ideally, I would love to have someone in place at the beginning of September. We’ll see if that’s doable,” Podger said.
Podger and Stephanie Knickle, the manager of campus and community recreation, will co-lead the transition team while a search for a new director takes place.
The department has about five full-time permanent employees, not including the full-time coaches, and a budget of about $1 million before fundraising. Some of the recommendations were tied to funding, but the report didn’t provide a figure of how much new funding was required.
“We are going to be taking an in-depth look at the costs and revenue generation and the fundraising that is needed to make athletics successful,” Podger said.
It includes varsity, recreation and intramural sports.
Dave (Hermie) MacNeill, a former Panthers women’s basketball coach and a former executive director of Sport P.E.I., spoke with more than 60 people in conducting the review of the department.
The university endorsed the review’s seven recommendations, including implementing transparent, accountable financial policies, securing long-term stable leadership and staffing as well as reviewing and adjusting coaches’ salaries.
“We had already begun to work on several areas that these recommendations refer to,” Podger said. “It re-confirms that the work we were already doing was in fact going down the right path.”
Lyall Huggan, a past president of the Panthers basketball team’s booster club, called for the independent review after women’s basketball coach Greg Gould announced his resignation on June 4.
“I, as well many people from both the sport and business community, look forward to a successful implementation of these recommendations. Let’s hope the process is both expedient and trustworthy,” he said.
Huggan thanked MacNeill for a “professional and thorough review.
“Hopefully all UPEI athletic teams will benefit both now and in the future, as a result of his work.”
University president Alaa Abd-El-Aziz has also committed to chair a new athletics advisory board. UPEI women’s hockey coach Bruce Donaldson will leave his job as the TD Canada Trust branch manager in Charlottetown at the end of September to become UPEI’s associate director of development. He will also chair the fundraising sub-committee.
Darren Peters, a supporter of the university’s basketball teams, was pleased with the administration’s response to the review.
“I think the leadership that the president of UPEI and his vice-president of administration and finance have shown over the past number of months is to be commended,” he said. “We are very grateful that . . . they have heard the pleas of the community.”
Peters added it is time to “rally behind” the university and support the athletics department.