A week into his job as interim athletic director at East Tennessee State, Richard Sander says the administrative juices are starting to flow again.
Sander spent two decades as AD at Virginia Commonwealth before retiring in 2006. He’s been doing consulting work and playing his fair share of golf since then, but was lured back into a campus setting last week when ETSU president Brian Noland named him to succeed Dave Mullins as athletic director.
“The location has changed for me. I’m not sure many of the challenges or issues have changed,” Sander said Tuesday. “It’s a little different than playing golf every day, but this is work that I enjoy.”
Sander, 67, hasn’t had much time to look around town yet.
He drove in from Richmond last Wednesday and spent the weekend in the Atlanta area with Noland. The two attended an alumni function and watched the Bucs play basketball at Mercer and Kennesaw State.
Sander already had a feel for the lay of the athletic landscape here, having worked with the Committee for 125 last fall. That’s one reason he has returned with a six-month contract.
“I’m very excited about it. There’s a lot of positive, a lot of energy,” he said. “One thing is pretty clear: ETSU is certainly an important entity within this geographical area. Everybody is interested, everybody is touched in some way by ETSU. That creates a lot of enthusiasm.”
Some historic decisions are sure to be made on Sanders’ short watch here. Whether the university will start a new football program tops the list. A possible change in conference affiliation goes hand in hand with that decision.
The football announcement is expected to come in 4-6 weeks.
“We’re trying to put together different scenarios depending on what we decide,” said Sander. “We’re getting feedback from different constituencies. We’re going to be engaging the students to see what their thoughts are.”
Sander said Noland would soon meet with “student government leadership to get a feel for their thoughts. Student leadership will be involved as we chart a potential course for football.”
Sander has been in constant touch with Mullins, who served as AD for the last decade and recommended bringing Sander in for the Committee for 125 discussions. Mullins is now special assistant to the president for athletics and will focus on fundraising and facilities development.
“Dave has been a tremendous source of information,” said Sander. “Background, history, all the rationale on why this was done or wasn’t done … it’s been very helpful in planning for the future.”