Jim Livengood's tenure at Arizona is coming to an end/Tucson Citizen photo
UPDATE: The Arizona Daily Star is reporting that Livengood has accepted the UNLV job. The Las Vegas Review Journal is reporting that a press conference at UNLV has been scheduled for 2:30 p.m. today to announce the school’s new AD.
One way or another Jim Livengood won’t be here much longer. He might be UNLV’s athletic director as early as Thursday. If not, he’ll ride out his Arizona contract and be done at the end of June.
He began his job right after Arizona’s Fiesta Bowl victory over Miami on Jan. 1, 1994. That’s a long time ago. Long enough that Livengood suffers locally from Dick Tomey Syndrome — anybody at one spot that long has highs and lows, creating firmly entrenched supporters and detractors.
Most importantly, Livengood has lost his support from the board of regents and university president Robert Shelton, who, at least publicly, has been unwilling to fight the fight to extend Livengood’s contract.
It was Shelton — as much if not more so than Livengood — who failed to step up during Lute Olson‘s leave of absence for health-related reasons. Neither could wield the clout to do what needed to be done — convince Olson to retire, which would have been a good move for all the parties.
Olson, however, proved more powerful than either. Besides, who wanted to be the bad guy who told Lute he couldn’t coach here anymore?
Anyway, when the powers that be declined to consider another Livengood contract, he went looking for another job. He is 64 and not ready to golf full time. He is one of three finalists for the UNLV athletic director position, along with former Oregon athletic director Bill Moos and Washington State senior associate athletic director John Johnson.
In Las Vegas on Tuesday, at a public forum during his interview, Livengood acknowledged his contract at Arizona wouldn’t be renewed.
Whether he gets the UNLV job or not, Arizona will have a big decision to make soon.
It shouldn’t be too hard.
(Of course, that’s what we said about the men’s basketball job, and that nearly turned into a fiasco. Shelton, in an interview in Dec. 2008 with the Tucson Citizen, said he was going to be very involved in that hiring … so he has to share in all the false steps along the way before UA landed Sean Miller.)
The Arizona athletic department has its challenges, notably getting a $378 million facilities plan off the ground.
But coach Mike Stoops and the football program is hitting its stride, and the long-term future of the basketball program is in good shape with Miller. Arizona has national championship coaches in softball (Mike Candrea), swimming (Frank Busch) and men’s golf (Rick LaRose) — all holdovers from previous administrations.
Baseball coach Andy Lopez, a Livengood hire, won a national title at Pepperdine. Second-year women’s basketball coach Niya Butts might prove to a young star in the business.
At the beginning of Livengood’s tenure, Arizona began a nine-year streak of top 10 finishes in the Directors’ Cup Standings, which rates an athletic department on how all sports fare in the postseason. For the past few years, the Wildcats have been mostly just inside the Top 25.
Not what it once was, but still the envy of many programs.
I’m reminded of what Livengood said about the UA men’s basketball vacancy last year. “This is a great job,” he said.
The AD’s job is, too. Arizona will have no shortage of good candidates.
Someday soon, Shelton is going to be on the spot. If he doesn’t want Livengood around, then he can’t afford to mess up the hire.
He’ll have to make sure that the introductory press conference for the new athletic director is, as Livengood would say, a great Wildcat day.