Tuesday, May 21, 2013 | 2 a.m.
- UNLV announces former bowl director as interim athletic director
- Take 5: The most important tasks facing UNLV’s next athletic director
- Brewer: Jim Livengood’s ‘retirement’ doesn’t feel right
- Jim Livengood suddenly retires from his post at the helm of UNLV athletics
- UNLV could receive about $1 million for moving Arizona football game
- All UNLV coverage
The UNLV interim athletic director will be expected to do everything within their power to improve football ticket sales, maintain good relations and be helpful to every coaching staff, then step out of the way when the full-time hire comes in. That all sounds just fine to Tina Kunzer-Murphy, whom the university announced Monday would fill the position effective July 1.
“I know what we have to do,” Kunzer-Murphy said. “I know it takes everybody working together for the same goal. And when the new AD comes in, all the strategic plans we work on, you can hand it over to somebody else. That’s part of the deal.”
Kunzer-Murphy is familiar with the UNLV campus. From 1977-92, she worked her way up the athletic department from head women’s tennis coach to senior assistant athletic director. She also holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the university. In January, Kunzer-Murphy stepped back on campus to be the director of alumni sponsorship and development for UNLV Alumni Relations. As part of that job, she helped develop the Jerry Tarkanian Legacy Project.
“UNLV’s been my home for a long time,” she said. “It’s where I started. It’s what I love.”
UNLV President Neal Smatresk said he sees some possible overlap with the work Kunzer-Murphy has already done with alumni relations and what she’ll try to do as the interim athletic director. And the experience with athletics could even help when she returns to that alumni development position. And return she will.
Despite initial reactions that her interim tag may one day dissolve, both Smatresk and Kunzer-Murphy said this is only a temporary position.
“I needed to make sure the interim wasn’t going to be an applicant,” Smatresk said.
That’s part of the reason he doesn’t want to lay too many expectations at her feet. After all, how much can one person accomplish in what may be a two-month window?
“We don’t expect miracles,” Smatresk said.
What the university does expect is someone to help the athletic department get through the summer without any major issues and, if possible, to put more butts in seats at Sam Boyd Stadium. With 12 years of experience as executive director of the Las Vegas Bowl, that’s a strong suit for Kunzer-Murphy.
Before she resigned from the position in August 2012, Kunzer-Murphy oversaw a string of successes with the bowl game that included sellouts in six of her last seven years.
“It’s really important to get people out there and sell some tickets,” Kunzer-Murphy said. “(Neal and I) talked heavily about football.”
Smatresk approached Kunzer-Murphy, along with other candidates, May 13 and the two followed up with a more in-depth discussion Wednesday. Smatresk said he emailed Kunzer-Murphy on Sunday night saying he was leaning toward picking her, but Kunzer-Murphy said she wasn’t sure she had the job until Monday morning.
Although she hasn’t yet spoken with Jim Livengood, whose retirement as UNLV athletic director is effective June 30, the two go back several years and Kunzer-Murphy said she would seek him out soon. She had been keeping up with another soon-to-depart member of the athletic department, Senior AD of Communications D.J. Allen.
Allen, who is stepping down effective June 3 to return to his work as an entrepreneur, was one of just a few names Smatresk was considering before selecting Kunzer-Murphy. With the lack of football revenue a thorn in the entire department’s side, it’s possible the feedback Smatresk heard from local business leaders put Kunzer-Murphy over the top.
“We all know a winning record’s the best antidote for (sparse crowds),” Smatresk said. “That said, she has a lot of pull in the community. People I spoke with said, ‘If Tina came and talked to us about (buying) blocks of football tickets, we’d listen to that.’”
Even if she’s successful with getting tickets sold over the summer, Kunzer-Murphy likely won’t be in the position long enough to see more than one or two home games. Smatresk said he wants to move as quickly as possible with finding a new full-time athletic director. The search committee is almost complete and could begin compiling candidates soon with the goal of having someone in place by September.
From July 1 until then, the job will belong to Kunzer-Murphy, who said she didn’t apply for the full-time athletic director job three and a half years ago and again won’t do so. This is temporary, a chance to get back into athletics and do whatever she can to help UNLV’s coaches, most of whom she’s known for years. It’s a chance Kunzer-Murphy’s absolutely grateful to get.
“I’m ready to go,” she said. “Put me in, coach.”