Colorado State’s next athletic director won’t be the person many suspected it would be.
Interim athletic director John Morris, who was considering a front-runner to take over the position permanently, accepted the athletic director’s job at Tufts University, a Division III school in Medford, Massachusetts, the university announced Friday morning. Morris joined the CSU staff in 2012 as deputy athletics director, and has served as interim director of athletics since August 2014 after the dismissal of Jack Graham.
“My family and I are very excited about the terrific opportunity that awaits us at Tufts University,” Morris said in a press release from the University. “At the same time, it is very difficult to leave a place as special as Colorado State. Fort Collins has been a great home for us, and it has been an honor to serve at this world-class university under President Tony Frank’s leadership. I am pleased that the timing of my move to Tufts will enable me to help assure a smooth transition for the new A.D.”
CSU is expected to name its next athletic director by mid-March, something Frank reiterated in an interview with the Collegian last week. After Graham’s dismissal on Aug. 8, Frank stated he hoped to have Graham’s replacement hired by the holiday break. But with the departure of former head football coach Jim McElwain to the University of Florida and the then-upcoming decision on CSU’s on campus football stadium project, Frank was told to wait until both of those decisions had been made.
DRH International, the company used to hire new head football coach Mike Bobo, told Frank that if CSU were to decide against the stadium project and remain at Hughes Stadium, they would have a long pool of candidates, but if they were to move forward with the stadium, they would have a different, more robust pool of candidates. For that reason, Frank decided to delay the search until the CSU Board of Governors decided to approve his finance plan Feb. 5.
“Originally our thinking was we want to go fast because athletics is one of those fields within the university that if there is not permanent leadership in place people assume something must be wrong with the organization,” Frank said. “And then as we got into the process of the search, (DRH International) advised us that the biggest impact on the athletic director pool of candidates was going to be the decision about the stadium.”
Morris, after assisting Frank in hiring Mike Bobo and leading the department through one of its most successful years in the school’s history, seemed to be a leading candidate for the job, only to accept the position at Tufts less than a month before the school is expected to announce its decision.
Prior to coming to Colorado State, Morris served as the senior associate athletic director for eight years at the University of Washington, where he managed several sports programs, in addition to overseeing the athletic department’s NCAA rules compliance program and the student-athlete academic support unit.
“I’m tremendously thankful to John for all that he’s accomplished at CSU during his time as both interim athletics director and deputy athletics director,” President Tony Frank said in a release. “John has been a rock solid performer, and I encouraged him to stay in the candidate pool for the permanent athletics director role. But John believes that this move is best for him both personally and professionally, and I respect that. I will personally miss his leadership and friendship, and the entire Ram family joins me in wishing John and his family the very best in the future.”
Collegian Sports Editor Keegan Pope can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.