The dust has finally settled in the athletic department at Northern Arizona University and out of it has come a new era for Lumberjack sports.
In a nutshell: Lisa is out. Mike is in. And Jerome is back for another season.
Less than three months into a new school year, NAU Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Lisa Campos took flight before the snow fell on the Flagstaff campus to accept a similar position at University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). On Nov. 17, UTSA announced her hire at an afternoon press conference.
Her departure after 5 1/2 years on the job came unexpectedly. She did not address her experience at NAU in her parting statement, and the school’s president, Rita Cheng, did not mention Campos in her formal statement about hiring a new AD. Not the normal niceties exchanged when a coach leaves in good standing.
Cheng searched for a month and then came up with someone else familiar with the way things are done in the Pac-12 to replace Campos. Mike Marlow was serving as deputy director of athletics at Washington State when Cheng offered him the job. Prior to his seven years in Pullman, Marlow was the senior associate director at Oregon for more than 12 years.
Marlow’s hire was announced by the school earlier this week.
The other key position in the sports arena has also been solidified – by firing and then asking Jerome Souers to stay on as the head football coach, something he has been doing for the past 20 years.
It was reportedly Campos’ idea to let Souers go as part of her plan to take the football program “in a different direction.” At the time, Souers was 0-2 to start the 2017 campaign. But after he announced he would be leaving at the end of the season, his Lumberjacks strung together six straight wins, and the winningest football coach in the history of the Big Sky Conference was asked to return for his 21st season. The ‘Jacks finished the season 7-5.
All athletic directors are judged in large part on their coaching hires. Campos didn’t have a chance to show what she could do in the most high-profile coaching hire at any school, the football coach. She inherited Souers. But her basketball hires have been less than spectacular.
She hired Jack Murphy to coach the men’s team shortly after taking over as AD. He came into this season with a 63-101 record in Flag, has had one 20-win season (2014-15), and opened this season with seven straight losses and is now 2-8 with just three more non-conference games before beginning the Big Sky schedule. Her first hire for the women’s program posted just one season of double-digit wins in four years, and the interim head coach who took the team the following season went 9-21 and won just five conference games.
However, during her tenure the full spectrum of NAU sports teams captured 32 Big Sky and Western Athletic Conference championships, and nine teams advanced to NCAA postseason play. And she was in charge when the men’s cross country team won the school’s first-ever D-I championship in 2016.
The program also won two Big Sky Conference President’s Cup trophies for overall excellence in competition and the classroom.
When Campos took the NAU job she was one of just 26 females directing a Division I program, and the youngest in the country. She came from University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), where she was the senior associate athletic director for nine years.
Marlow also steps up into an AD position for the first time. In his deputy director role at Washington State, his alma mater, Marlow directed the school’s athletic fund, marketing, ticket operations, and communication efforts. He also served as the athletic department’s liaison for sports broadcasting contracts and was the administrator for the football, men’s basketball, and baseball programs.
At Oregon, he served as the senior associate athletic director, and was an assistant AD before that at University of Idaho.
Washington State’s head football coach, Mike Leach, had good things to say about his departed friend: “Mike Marlow will make an outstanding athletics director and is a personal friend who I have tremendous trust in, and a great deal of respect for.”
Once his hire is approved by the Arizona Board of Regents, Marlow is expected to begin work in mid-January.