When Arizona State fired Lisa Love earlier this week, it removed the only female athletic director among Arizona’s Division I colleges. But that situation lasted all of two days before Northern Arizona University announced the hire of Lisa Campos.
Lisa out, Lisa in.
Campos was hired away from the University of Texas at El Paso, where she has served nine years as the senior associate athletics director, and two years as the assistant dean of students. Her hire is pending approval of the Arizona Board of Regents.
At UTEP, she was responsible for up to 14 sports programs while also overseeing the school’s compliance operations. At NAU, they have created a new title for her position, vice president of intercollegiate athletics.
She inherits a program that is, to be kind, struggling.
Her predecessor, Jim Fallis, opted not to renew his expiring contract. That should tell you something.
Fallis, who has been the AD at the Flagstaff school since 2004, was a finalist for the AD job at Northern State University before that South Dakota school selected Joshua Moon from Western Illinois to fill the position.
He hasn’t indicated what his future plans will be when his contract expires in June. He just evidently knew it was time to move on.
During his eight years at the helm, he accomplished some good things, including 28 combined Big Sky Conference titles. The athletic department was among the top 100 in the country four times, based on competition each year for the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup.
And the athletes in his programs kept up their book work. The last couple of years, the Lumberjack athletic program exceeded NCAA academic standards in all 15 sponsored sports.
But the major sports programs, the high-profile revenue-producing sports where athletic directors are primarily judged for results, have fallen on hard times in recent years.
The football program earned a Big Sky championship in 2003, but hasn’t really come close to repeating those kind of results for the last decade. The Jacks finished last season 4-7 and settled for a sixth-place tie in conference play – which is about where they’ve been in recent years. It was another sixth-place finish in 2010, and fifth place the two years before that.
Fallis gave 14-year head coach, Jerome Souers, a three-year contract extension after the 2010 season. That means Campos will have little more than a year on the job before she has to address another contract extension for the school’s most visible athletic program.
But long before that time arrives, she will be involved in hiring a new coach for the men’s basketball program – possibly within a few weeks. And that program is in a mess right now.
The men’s head basketball coach, Mike Adras, resigned just nine games into the season, just prior to the announcement of an NCAA investigation into his program. A 70-year-old ex-women’s coach at NAU, Dave Brown, who had retired from the game and was working in the school’s broadcast booth, took over for the remainder of the season. They posted a 1-15 conference record to land them in last place.
And it was not much better on the women’s side. They won just three more conference games than the men and finished one spot above them in the conference cellar – which was not really much of an under-achievement, since they were picked in the pre-season to finish in sixth place.
Head coach Laurie Kelly, who just finished up her ninth season, took the program to back-to-back 20-win seasons in 2006 and 2007. But since then it has been an uphill struggle. An 11-win season in 2010 was the best record in five years.
Campos will likely take a close look at that program as well.
The new veep has her work cut out for her when she arrives in Flagstaff. She’d better be bringing her cross-trainers with her; she’s gonna have to hit the ground running.
(Photo: NAU Athletics)