LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --  Reversing course, the University of Louisville now plans to use a professional headhunting firm to help identify candidates for the position of athletics director.

The firm could be hired as soon as next week, while the university still hopes to name a successful candidate by the end of March, U of L interim President Greg Postel said in an interview Wednesday.

Postel also dismissed the notion that interim athletics director Vince Tyra, a Louisville businessman with family ties to the university, has a lock on the permanent job.

“We wouldn’t be doing a search if there had been a decision already,” he said.

Postel said the committee charged with vetting candidates for the position – a group that includes him, athletics administrators, faculty members and university trustees – decided to hire a firm at its first meeting on Monday. That meeting was closed to the public and press.

University sources originally indicated there would not be an outside firm for the athletics director search, unlike other recent searches for high-level administrators. In fact, a spokesman for Postel sent WDRB a statement Tuesday defending the decision not to use a professional firm.

To be sure, Postel said Wednesday that officials had “gone back and forth” on whether to hire a firm.

U of L is looking to replace Tom Jurich, who was fired last October after 20 years on the job.

Jurich steered the athletics department through a period of tremendous growth, achieving membership in the prestigious Atlantic Coast Conference. But he was fired in the wake of two recent scandals in the men’s basketball program.

Tyra, who is a few months into a one-year, $1.2 million contract for the interim job, is interested in the permanent position, athletics department spokesman Kenny Klein confirmed.

U of L could name a permanent president by June, but Postel has previously said the university can’t wait to fill important jobs like athletics director.

On Wednesday, Postel said he anticipates no issues finding the right candidate by the end of March, but the university will take more time if needed.

“If we get a bunch of good candidates and we feel like we are able to make a decision in a short time frame, we’d like to do that,” he said. “On the other hand, if we are not happy with any of the candidates, we are not going to make a bad decision just to fit the schedule.”

Postel added that officials at the ACC, including Commissioner John Swofford, have provided advice on the filling the position and suggested some search firms that other universities have recently used.

Postel said he expects the firm U of L chooses will already have potential candidates in mind.

“We’re told there are a lot of people interested in these positions, and there will be a quick list of folks to consider,” he said.

U of L athletics board member Larry Benz, a former chairman of the university's board of trustees, applauded the decision to hire a headhunting firm.

"Extending the reach for the best candidate to a national search firm is a great step as our stakeholders want the best," he said Wednesday.

But the athletics director search committee could still benefit by consulting more alumni and donors such as Junior Bridgeman, Jim Patterson and Sam Rechter, he said. 

Here are the members of the committee, whose names were first reported by Courier Journal on Tuesday:

  • Christine Herring, senior woman administrator and assistant athletics director
  • Marvin Mitchell, senior associate athletics director for student services and diversity
  • Greg Postel, interim president
  • Nitin Sahney, trustee and healthcare executive
  • John Schnatter, trustee and chairman of Papa John’s International
  • Vickie Tencer, research and grants manager, school of nursing
  • Vishnu Tirumala, trustee and student body president
  • Krista Wallace-Boaz, assistant dean,  school of music
  • Jeff Walz, head coach, women's basketball team
  • Elaine Wise, faculty athletics representative and former humanities chair

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2018 WDRB News. All rights reserved.