Tulane announces new athletic director after week of coaching cuts


The Tulane Athletic Director search committee, led by Doug Hertz, announced Wednesday afternoon that Northern Iowa’s Troy Dannen will succeed Rick Dickson. In late September, Dickson announced he would retire in June 2016 after a 15-year tenure. 

Mackenna Barker and Jordan Figueredo

In the past seven days, Tulane athletics staff has seen a massive overhaul. Change is on the forefront for the Green Wave with two head coach contracts’ not being renewed and a new Athletic Director announcement.

Tulane welcomed the new face of Green Wave athletics Wednesday afternoon as the search committee for the new Tulane athletic director, headed by Tulane board member Doug Hertz, announced the hiring of University of Northern Iowa athletic director Troy Dannen for the position.

Tulane began searching for a new athletic director after current AD Rick Dickson announced in late September that he intends to retire in June 2016, ending his 15-year tenure at Tulane.

“We were thrilled by the incredible interest in the Tulane job and overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of applicants,” Hertz said. “But at each stage of the process, Troy’s name kept appearing at the top of everyone’s list.”

After a process lasting several months, President Michael Fitts said the committee came to a unanimous decision on Dannen.

Dannen comes to Tulane with eight years of experience as an athletic director. His position with the Green Wave is also the first time he has accepted a position outside the state of Iowa. Under his direction at UNI, student athletes’ cumulative grade point average increased from 2.90 to 3.16 and exceeded the student body average at UNI in each of the last 11 semesters. With several programs under his leadership ranked in the top 10 percent of the NCAA in Academic Progress Rate, Dannen will benefit the athletes both on and off the field.

In 2014, the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics named Dannen the Under Armour AD of the Year for his successes in academics, fundraising, business operations and marketing achievement.

At Northern Iowa, Dannen had 13 Coaches of the Year and 15 Conference Players of the Year honors across 11 sports since 2008 in addition to 39 All-American athletes.

“Troy’s engaging personality, warmth and tremendous energy level will endear him to our student-athletes and fans,” Fitts said in a press release.

Last season, UNI’s men’s basketball team made it to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 5 seed team. UNI football had just one losing season in Dannen’s eight-year tenure at the program’s helm, and the Panthers now head to Portland State Saturday for the second round of the 2015 NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs.

Despite the UNI football program’s success under his lead, Dannen’s hiring came as a surprise to many, and an internal source within Tulane Athletics voiced some skepticism in Dannen’s lack of Football Bowl Subdivision experience, feeling “dumbfounded” and “shocked” by the news, and said others in the organization also shared this reaction.

Football head coach Curtis Johnson was fired after the Wave lost to Tulsa Friday, but he was not the only coach to clear an office. Volleyball head coach Sinisa Momic would not have his contract renewed, as announced by the athletics department. Like Johnson, Momic’s program struggled in the first two years in the American Athletic Conference. While football went 2-6 in conference in 2014 and then 1-7 in 2015, volleyball finished 3-17 in conference in its first year of membership and 4-16 in its second.

One of Dannen’s biggest challenges will be to convince students to attend athletic events and build and augment Tulane sports culture.

“[UNI] probably has a similar situation to [Tulane],” Colin McDonough, UNI assistant athletic director for athletics communications, said. “We are striving to get more students at games, but when it comes down to it, winning will make them come. We have had very good football and basketball teams here both before and after he was here. [Dannen] did a great job here, [Tulane] got a great hire.”

According to McDonough, Dannen has only hired one coach in his tenure at UNI, head wrestling Coach Doug Schwab in 2010. The coach brought the most out of his players right away, and the team posted its first 12-win season in his first season at the helm. The Panthers also ranked No. 8 in attendance numbers across the nation last season, and Schwab sent four wrestlers to the NCAA tourney.

Dannen’s first immediate task as AD is searching for a football head coach, as Tulane officially fired Curtis Johnson Saturday.

With Dickson’s impending departure, the rapid pace at which Tulane Athletics is cleaning house with struggling programs points to a larger commitment of developing successful teams at Tulane.

This overhaul of athletics starts a new chapter for the Green Wave. Dickson prevented the extinction of the athletic program after Hurricane Katrina and restructured the sports programs in accordance with NCAA Title IX.

Ten years after Katrina, Tulane now goes through another transition period as the fresh blood faces the challenge of creating a prominent athletic environment on campus. With a goal of winning within a more competitive conference, Tulane aims to improve its records in the American Athletic Conference, which it joined in 2014.

“[Dannen] has demonstrated outstanding leadership and success in every job, at every level,” Fitts said. “His dedication to his student-athletes and his goal to win championships in every sport are testament to his enthusiasm and his dedication to his profession.”

Dannen will be formally introduced to the New Orleans and Tulane community Friday.

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