The Arizona Wildcats have begun a national search to replace Jim Livengood, who was introduced Thursday as UNLV's next athletic director.
Livengood will split time between Tucson and Las Vegas until Jan. 15, when senior associate athletic director Kathleen "Rocky" LaRose, a UA alum, former athlete and 30-year employee, will serve as the interim athletic director.
UA president Robert Shelton and Livengood met with Arizona Wildcats athletic department staff early Thursday morning to discuss Livengood's Wednesday night decision. Shelton asked UA coaches to send him their input for a new choice.
The president, however, would not commit to a search committee Thursday.
"I will make the final decision," he said. "I will be leading the search. But I will get plenty of help, either from a formal search advisory committee - I guess that's the way I'd put it - or from something more broadly conceived than that."
Shelton said "there will certainly be a venue for me to get input from the Tucson community writ large, the University of Arizona and beyond that."
The president said he will consider current Arizona Wildcats employees - "but we will also not confine our search to the people at the U of A."
LaRose, 52, did not campaign for the job Thursday, calling herself the "connection between the past and the future."
The Phoenix native hit cleanup for the UA softball team and was named 1978 homecoming queen. She coached the UA softball team in 1980 before moving to the athletic administration one year later.
LaRose and Shelton stressed the Wildcats' commitment to its $378 million master construction plan, namely the $82 million north end zone project that needs formal approval from the Arizona Board of Regents next month. The Wildcats received a $10 million donation last month specifically for the project.
"That would be my No. 1 goal," LaRose said, "to make sure that's on track and make sure we're moving forward, that we're following up on our most generous gift of all time."
Shelton stressed a speedy search. He smiled when asked whether, in a perfect world, the hire would be made in two or three months.
"If I can get somebody tomorrow, the right person, I'd be happy," he said.
Shelton said he has known since the spring that Livengood would not return when his contract was to expire June 30, 2010.
Shelton said there was "no one trigger," but that "16 years leading a great institution, it's a long time in this business."
UA teams won 11 NCAA national titles during Livengood's tenure, which began in January 1994. Livengood, who made $372,600 per year on an extension signed Dec. 10, 2004, was probably best known for keeping the athletic department on budget every season. He inherited an $18 million annual budget from Cedric Dempsey and moved it up to $44 million. The athletic department is privately funded and self sustaining.
The 64-year-old Livengood helped raise money to build Eddie Lynch Pavilion and Richard Jefferson Gymnasium. In September, he announced plans for the 20-year master construction plan.
Livengood drew criticism, however, for hiring football coach John Mackovic in 2000 and struggling with basketball coach Lute Olson's 18-month-long exit that ended with Sean Miller being hired in April. The Wildcats also struggled academically, but Shelton said Thursday he was pleased with the department's improvement in recent years.
"I'm not too big to admit it - I shed a couple tears," said women's basketball coach Niya Butts, whom Livengood hired last year. "Obviously, he believed in me, and he brought me in and gave me this opportunity, so I will always be grateful and will always have tons of respect for what he has done and his legacy here.
"I don't think I would be out of bounds saying I think a lot of people feel that way."
Football coach Mike Stoops said Livengood would be missed, in part because the athletic director "showed great patience and perseverance through a very difficult time" two years ago.
"On the other hand, I'm happy for him," Stoops said. "I know he still has a lot left. I think he'll do a great job."
The terms of Livengood's UNLV contract will be disclosed today, school officials said. UNLV president Neal Smatresk said that, in Livengood, "we have somebody who can bring credibility, a network, connections, and can also be a mentor and a positive influence within athletics here locally."
Livengood beat out former Oregon athletic director Bill Moos and Washington State senior associate athletic director John Johnson to replace Mike Hamrick, who left in July for his alma mater Marshall University. Hamrick made $285,000 a year.
Livengood must now find a replacement for recently fired UNLV football coach Mike Sanford.
"I want to make a head coaching hire yesterday," he said.
Shelton has his own job to fill.
"What we need is somebody that understands the fiscal dimension of athletics," he said, "that has experience in a leadership role, that is able to recruit great coaches that work with our students and graduate our students."
Star reporters Ryan Finley and Sarah Trotto contributed to this report.