End of an era

Ohio University Director of Athletics Jim Schaus will be leaving the Bobcats to become the new commissioner of the Southern Conference. Schaus has been the Ohio AD since 2008.

Note: This story appears in the Tuesday, June 4 newspaper on Page A6.

For the first time in more than a decade, there will be a change at the top of the Ohio University Athletics Department.

Ohio Director of Athletics Jim Schaus will leave his position to become the commissioner of the Southern Conference. Multiple sources inside, or affiliated with, Ohio Athletics confirmed Schaus’ imminent departure. Ohio University confirmed the move on Tuesday with a morning press release.

According to the release, Amy Dean has been named interim Director of Ohio Athletics effective July 1. Schaus will step down as the Ohio's current AD effective June 30.

"It has been an amazing 11 years as athletic director at Ohio. We have accomplished much and had a lot of fun doing it thanks to a great team of people on and off our campus who are committed to Ohio University," Schaus said in the release. “True success is always about people, and I have worked with and served the very best.

"However, it is time to begin a new and exciting chapter in my career as the commissioner for the Southern Conference." 

Dean, who was named Deputy Athletic Director in 2016, began working at Ohio University in 1999.

"Amy has provided strong leadership to Ohio Athletics throughout her tenure with University,” said Ohio President Dr. M. Duane Nellis in the release. “She has played a pivotal role related to developing policy and recruiting staff, and I greatly appreciate her partnership and guidance through this transition." 

The University will begin a national search for its next athletic director in the coming weeks.

The SoCon has been engaged in a national search for a new conference leader since March when former commissioner John Iamarino announced his pending retirement on June 30. Schaus, who has been Ohio’s AD since April 7, 2008, will be his replacement.

Schaus will be walking away from a contract at Ohio that was paying him approximately $281,000 per year. Schaus still had two full years left on his current contract.

Schaus departs after overseeing one of the best decades of athletics in the university’s history.

The football program, under the guidance of long-time head coach Frank Solich, is a consistent winner and a nationally recognizable asset. Facility and capital improvements have inundated the area around Peden Stadium and the Convocation Center at a pace unseen for the university in half a century.

Ohio Athletics continues to meet the academic standards set by both the university itself and the NCAA without major issues. Ohio remains one of just a handful of Division I programs in the country to never run afoul of the NCAA in terms of a major violation.

Schaus also helped Ohio Athletics develop a balanced budget — he inherited a $2.3 million shortfall when he began in 2008 — that it has adhered to for the last 10 years. He helped create the Ohio Bobcat Club — the official fund-raising arm of Ohio Athletics — that supplanted the previous Green & White Club as a revenue generating asset for Athletics. The Bobcat Club has nearly doubled its “unrestricted” donations — the club generates nearly $900,000 annually in that regard — over the last half-decade.

Among the many facility improvements that came under Schaus are the Sook Academic Center/Peden Stadium north end zone building, the Walter Fieldhouse indoor practice facility, renovations for both the athletic training facility and the strength and conditioning center, the completion of a new softball stadium, plus videoboard and sound system upgrades to both Peden Stadium and the Convo.

On the fields and the courts, the Bobcats have flourished in several sports in the last 11 years. Football has become a consistent MAC contender and a constant for bowl game appearances. Men’s basketball won the MAC Tournament twice and has a trio of NCAA Tournament wins from 2010 and 2012. Women’s basketball has had several record-breaking season in terms of overall wins and NIT and NCAA Tournament bids. Ohio Baseball (2015 and ’17) and Softball (2014 and ’18) each have a pair of NCAA Tournament bids and MAC titles.

Over the last 11 years Ohio Athletics has set all-time revenue records in ticket sales, fundraising, corporate sponsorships, licensing and concessions sales. The Bobcats remain at, or near, the top of the MAC (through 2018) in terms of attendance in the revenue-generating sports (football, volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball).

But despite those successes, Schaus and Ohio Athletics remained a bit hamstrung in terms of the budget afforded the department by the university. Schaus, speaking in March, said his department has created more revenue than ever before but is working with less than a decade ago thanks to university-wide cuts.

“There was a seven percent cut to the entire campus instituted over a three-year window,” Schaus explained. “Our next cut is $200,000 and that’ll be $700,000 for (athletics) as a whole with just that part of it.

“It’s probably been close to $3 million since I’ve been here in my 11 years,” he said. “You’ve got to generate revenue. That’s always a huge priority for us.”

Schaus’ tenure also appeared to become slightly strained in recent years. He was linked as a strong candidate for athletic director jobs at other institutions more than six times in the last five years alone. He was rumored to have been on the final list for Power 5 jobs at West Virginia (2015), Purdue (2016) and Washington State (2017).

There was also rumored tension between the Athletic Department and current Ohio President Dr. M. Duane Nellis. Nellis assumed his post in June 2017. Less than a year later, Schaus stepped down from his spot on the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee after three seasons of his five-year appointment on one of the most prestigious committees in the NCAA hierarchy.

Schaus, in March, said his relationship with the current president was “great” and downplayed Nellis’ involvement in what he called a “joint” decision to step down from the men’s basketball committee.

Speaking at the press conference introducing new men’s basketball coach Jeff Boals on March 18, Nellis relished the chance to talk about being directly involved in the search for the Bobcats’ next head coach. He also denied any friction between his office and the athletic department.

“As for Jim, it’s not to indicate or…reflect in my trust of Jim,” Nellis said. “It’s a question of, as president, Athletics is an important part of our institution and I want to make sure we got the right person.

“That’s all it is.”

Former Ohio President Roderick McDavis gave Schaus a three-year extension shortly before he left the university in 2016. That extension was put into place on July 1, 2016 and would have kept Schaus under contract through June 30, 2021.

Email at jarkley@athensmessenger.com; follow on Twitter @JasonAmessenger

Load comments