University of Idaho President M. Duane Nellis is the sole finalist to take over the presidency of Texas Tech University.
U of I officials said Friday the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents will have a final vote in late March. Texas Tech University System regents made the selection on Friday. System Chancellor Kent Hance calls Nellis "a visionary leader with an outstanding record of accomplishment in higher education."
He would succeed Lawrence Schovanec, who served as Tech's interim president since the August resignation of Guy Bailey. State law requires 21 days to pass before final action is taken on the appointment.
Texas Tech Universitys preliminary spring enrollment is 30,399, more than double the University of Idahos at 12,493. Texas Tech is in Lubbock and is a member of the Big 12 Conference.
In a statement, Nellis said he had believed his Idaho appointment in July 2009 would cap his career and that the Texas Tech opportunity came as a surprise. He said he takes pride in the University of Idaho's work as Idaho's flagship national research university.
The Idaho State Board of Education expects to conduct a national search for Nellis' replacement, pending finalization of his contract with Texas Tech.
Nellis said Friday he did not expect to be presented with an opportunity like the Texas Tech job.
When Ruthie and I made the move to the Northwest and the University of Idaho almost four years ago, we believed I would be completing my career as president of this special place, said Nellis, in a press release issued by U of I Friday. We care deeply for the University of Idaho and are so proud of Idahos flagship national research university and all the people who make it successful.
Nellis has been the president of U of I since 2009 when he was hired from Kansas State. Nellis had initially rebuffed Idaho because the salary was too low. The state board, pushed by Vandal boosters, found the money by changing a policy to let the school's foundation contribute to Nellis' salary. Nellis and the Ed Board settled on $335,000 a year.
His tenure was marked by the shooting death of student Katy Benoit by professor Ernesto Bustamante in 2011. Bustamante then killed himself. The University settled with Benoit's family and instituted several changes.
Earlier this month, Idaho announced it would form task forces to study the university's policies on alcohol and substance abuse and another to explore the university's relationship with fraternities and sororities. The decision came after several high-profile incidents with alcohol, including the death of a student from hypothermia.
Nellis has also had to deal with a changing athletic landscape for the Vandals. Idaho, which is a member of the Western Athletic Conference, will play as a Football Bowl Subdivision independent in 2013. The Vandals are scheduled to move their other athletic programs to the Big Sky in 2014.
"I am disappointed that President Nellis is leaving but I understand this is a tremendous opportunity for him and his family," Athletic Director Rob Spear said.
Check back later at Idahostatesman.com later for updates.