June 20, 2024
Cohen accepted the USC job on Monday, leaving the Huskies with a huge void at the top of their athletic department.

In what could be viewed as an act of Big Ten-on-Big Ten violence, USC’s next athletic director is Washington’s current athletic director.

Jen Cohen is leaving the Huskies after seven years to take charge of their West Coast rival, a surprising move that nonetheless makes sense for both USC and Cohen.

The search for her replacement likely will take weeks, if not months, and it will undoubtedly start with Chris Petersen, the highly respected former UW football coach.

To be clear: We’re deeply skeptical of Petersen’s desire to plunge into the daily grind of running an athletic department.

After all, he stepped down as coach after the 2019 season, in part, because of frustrations over the direction of college football. Four years later, the sport’s trajectory hasn’t changed — if anything, it has drifted further from Petersen’s ideal. As head of the department, he would be immersed in the unseemly side.

That said, Petersen would be an invaluable resource for UW during the search. So he needs to be the first phone call — make him say no, then let him offer advice.

Here are seven names that pique our interest. (Please don’t take this list for anything more than the Hotline wondering out loud.)

Scott Barnes: We expect the Huskies to conduct a national search that could carry a regional lean. Barnes has been in charge of Oregon State’s department for seven years and is perhaps best known in Seattle as the man who hired Jonathan Smith off UW’s coaching staff. What’s more, Barnes was born in Spokane and worked for Washington as an athletic department executive in the 2000s.

Pat Chun: If Washington can join the Big Ten and Washington’s athletic director can jump to USC, why can’t the Huskies hire a Cougar? Chun has expressed deep frustration with Pac-12 leadership (or lack thereof) in the two weeks since Washington bolted for the Big Ten. But he has not criticized the Huskies specifically, so far as we know, and has enjoyed a terrific working relationship with Cohen over the years. Then again, his dream job — Ohio State — is vacant. Chun won’t make a move before the Buckeyes make a decision.

Desiree Reed-Francois: Why would Missouri’s athletic director leave the powerhouse SEC for a gig in the Pac-12? She wouldn’t. But she might leave the SEC for a job that will be in the Big Ten. Also, the Bay Area native — she attended UCLA and has a law degree from Arizona — just made a deft men’s basketball hire for the Tigers in Dennis Gates. And guess what decision might be next on Washington’s to-do list.

Stephanie Rempe: Nevada’s second-year athletic director has vital ties to UW — and Petersen. She spent eight years on Montlake working under Cohen’s predecessor, Scott Woodward, and managing the Husky Stadium renovation project. Rempe followed Woodward to Texas A&M and then LSU. Oh, and she spent five years at Oklahoma under Joe Castiglione, one of the most respected athletic directors in the business.

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Terry Tumey: The former UCLA football player is currently in charge at Fresno State and, crucially, hired Kalen DeBoer as the Bulldogs’ head coach in 2020 (after initially working with DeBoer during his stint on Jeff Tedford’s coaching staff). The exact nature of their working relationship is beyond our scope of expertise, but DeBoer assuredly will have input in the hire. If things went smoothly for him with Tumey in Fresno, maybe the Huskies pursue a sequel.

O.D. Vincent: Never heard of him? That’s fine. The Huskies have. Way back in 1968, he was born in Seattle. Then he attended Washington and became an All-American golfer. Then he coached the Huskies to four NCAA Tournament appearances (before leaving for UCLA and then Duke). Then he was an athletic department executive for the Huskies and an executive for the PGA Tour. Now, he’s a vice president for Montage International. Is he ready to move back to campus? We have no idea. But he would be both an inside job and an outside-the-box hire.

JD Wicker: A move that also leans heavily into men’s basketball. Wicker is entering his eighth year at San Diego State and hired the head coach (Brian Dutcher) who just took the Aztecs to the national championship game. Wicker also knows the Pacific Northwest, having spent a decade on Washington State’s athletics staff. In May, he received the Athletic Director Of the Year Award from the Sports Business Journal.

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