Last week, UAA announced the hiring of Keith Hackett as the university’s new athletic director. Hackett joins the Seawolves with 36 years of higher education experience and was most recently the senior associate athletic director for internal affairs at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Hackett replaces longtime UAA Athletic Director Steve Cobb, who was fired in May amidst controversy surrounding the handling of a 2011 incident in which former hockey coach Dave Shyiak struck a player with his stick during a practice.
UAA Vice Chancellor Bill Spindle announced the hiring of Hackett Sept. 11 and said he will be in Anchorage for an introductory press conference at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 20.
Following the press conference, Seawolf Athletics will host a meet-and-greet from 3:30-5 p.m. Both events will be at UAA’s Consortium Library, Room 307.
Hackett comes equipped with extensive experience as a university and administrative management executive and has dealt with the responsibilities an athletic director would face.
Besides overseeing the football, track and field, cross-country and baseball programs, his duties included donor relations and budget, human and physical resource management, and alumni and community relations.
UAA released some quotes from people who have worked alongside Hackett. One of the most notable ones comes from former Nevada football head coach and inventor of the Pistol offense, Chris Ault.
“He’s really a quality person. That’s the thing that I really enjoyed about Keith. The last 5 or 6 years he was really the day-to-day AD on our campus. I think (UAA has) hired somebody who is certainly well-trained, has been in the trenches, and is a very good people person,” Ault said. “He was in charge of football at Nevada, but the most important thing is that he’s got a diverse skill set. He’s the guy that will get take initiative, get answers and solve problems.”
However, concerns about his fit at UAA have arisen.
For one, Hackett doesn’t have a background in hockey. Bringing in an athletic director with no hockey experience creates a risk. Since that’s the university’s flagship sport, many people would expect a new hire with familiarity in the department.
Secondly, the prolonged search could be worrisome. While the university can sell it as being patient and waiting for the right candidate, it might also be viewed as settling after a pursuit that didn’t go smoothly.
There are plenty reasons to like the hiring, but there also some reasons to question it. Time will tell if he can continue his success as a Seawolf.