Portland State announced the hiring of new athletic director Mark Rountree, who will be taking over the position Jan. 20. Rountree was formerly a deputy athletic director at Miami University of Ohio.
It has been over two months since former athletic director Torre Chisholm left PSU to pursue other positions.
Less than a month later, head football coach Nigel Burton was fired after posting a 21-36 record in five seasons. Arguably two of the most important positions in PSU’s athletic department were vacant.
“There really wasn’t too much of a concern,” said interim Athletic Director Valerie Clear. “I think there was a public conception that there was a concern; it’s quite unusual to have a vacancy at the athletic director spot and the head coaching spot at the same time. But we were fortunate enough that we have great staff who were able to keep it going in the right direction without too much of a hiccup.”
An associate athletic director and senior woman administrator, Cleary and Vikings administration knew that her position was temporary. PSU put together a search committee—with Cleary on it—and went to work. The position garnered over 80 applicants from across the nation.
During finals week of fall term, the two finalists for the athletic director came on campus to interview for the position. Three weeks later, Rountree was announced as the hire.
One of the two biggest positions in PSU athletics had been filled. If you’re waiting for the other one to follow suit, don’t hold your breath. For now, it seems like the Vikings are going to be sticking with interim head football coach Bruce Barnum for this recruiting class and into next season.
“Really right now the way the football hiring cycle goes, it’s kind of done for football coaches at this point,” Cleary said. “In order to do a really good search, we’re going to have to wait until after this next football season.”
The football program has decided to go interim. For the next year, Barnum will be coaching the PSU Vikings football team. Burton was fired months ago when there had not been an athletic director hired. In that time, the Vikings were unable to get a head coach to a program that has had a painful atmosphere in the recent past.
Barnum will be a part of a package that is supposed to attract students to games. This attraction includes Providence Park, a big professional stadium.
However, it looks like a ghost town when the Vikings come to play. Three thousand students in an arena that seats around twenty thousand does not make our home crowd seem intimidating.
More importantly, Barnum will be the head man of a team that has had one winning season in five years. Winning solves all problems, but can the Vikings win with an interim coach? Can they bring in the athletes that will lead to wins in the future?
Rountree has his hands full. On top of everything going on with the football program, Viking Pavilion looms in the background as a $44 million project yet to be undertaken. And even with all that said, we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of problems within PSU’s athletic program.
Welcome to PSU, Mark. We’ve got some work for you.