Idaho Vandals

For the first time, the University of Idaho has a woman as athletic director

Despite an impressive 25 years’ worth of accolades, a strong resume and more than a handful of opportunities, Terry Gawlik had never applied for an athletic director’s job.

It had to be the right opportunity, she said. The proper place and time.

On Wednesday afternoon in a crowded room at the University of Idaho’s Downtown Boise location, Gawlik made clear that all of those things had finally coalesced.

Gawlik, the University of Wisconsin’s senior associate athletic director for sports administration and senior women’s administrator, was named the new athletic director at the University of Idaho, taking over after 18 months of tension at the Moscow school.

The Idaho State Board of Education voted unanimously to approve Gawlik’s five-year contract. She will begin working on Sept. 1 and make $200,000 a year as a base salary, and could make up to $255,000 with incentives.

Gawlik is the first female athletic director in school history. The University of Idaho did not want to make an announcement on Gawlik’s hire prior to official approval by the State Board on Wednesday, Idaho spokesman Mike Walsh told the Statesman. She was one of 59 total applicants and five finalists.

“The timing, the area, the vision, the passion, the opportunity to go in and make a difference. And I knew that there were some some previous issues here that I have a toolkit to help with,” Gawlik told the Statesman in an interview. “The way I see it on campus, you want to get people involved so that they know what your vision is. They know what your passion is, they know what you’re trying to do, because they could be advocates for us as well. So it’s not just the athletic department. It’s the whole campus.”

Gawlik has an extensive resume, having worked at Wisconsin since 1994. Prior to becoming a senior associate athletic director for sports administration and senior women’s administrator in 2005, Gawlik served as an assistant athletics director. She was most recently in charge of the softball, volleyball, women’s basketball, and men’s and women’s rowing programs at the school.

“We had a criteria we set out with,” Idaho President C. Scott Green said at Gawlik’s introductory press conference. “She’ll help build the right culture within the athletic department.”

Gawlik served as Wisconsin’s Deputy Title IX coordinator and was in charge of the athletic department’s Gender Equity Plan. She also serves on the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee, and prior to that, she served as chair on the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer and NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball committees, and on the Intercollegiate Rowing Association committee.

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez endorsed Idaho’s choice in a statement.

“I’m thrilled for Terry. She has been an asset to Wisconsin athletics for 25 years and now she will bring her energy, talents and integrity to this leadership role at Idaho,” Alvarez said. “She is a great match for this position and I am confident she will do an outstanding job.”

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany also voiced his support.

“She has made a significant impact at Wisconsin over the past 25 years, while establishing a well-deserved reputation as a respected administrator, both locally and nationally, through committee service and active leadership policy issues across multiple sports,” Delaney said in a statement.

Gawlik graduated from Southwestern University (Texas) in 1981 with bachelor’s degrees in English and physical education. She played basketball and volleyball, and later coached the two sports at Mary-Hardin Baylor. She also coached at St. Mary’s University and Austin College. She has a master’s degree in physical education and educational administration from Texas State University.

Gawlik’s hiring follows a stretch of controversy involving the U of I athletic department. The “toolkit” she possesses is in demand.

Former athletic director Rob Spear was fired by the State Board of Education last August after botched sexual assault and harassment cases involving former Vandals athletes.

Last March, the Idaho Statesman began an investigation into claims by former diver Mairin Jameson that the school’s athletic department had mishandled her reports of alleged assault by wide receiver Jahrie Level in April 2013. Distance runner Maggie Miller also reported verbal harassment by Level, who was dismissed from the football team following surveillance footage backing Jameson’s claims.

U of I was found to have not been compliant with federal Title IX protocol in the cases. Eight former U of I female athletes spoke to the Statesman and shared concerns over Spear’s leadership. An independent report commissioned by the school found that Spear and other school officials “made mistakes that contributed to the controversial handling” of Jameson’s case, per previous Statesman reporting.

Spear’s contract was terminated by the State Board on Aug. 16, 2018. He had been Idaho’s full-time AD since January 2004. Pete Isakson had served as interim athletic director since Spear was put on administrative leave on April 3, 2018.

“We’re moving forward. This isn’t about looking back,” Gawlik said. “It’s moving forward.”

Gawlik has been filing Title IX reports at Wisconsin since around 2000, she said. But just as important are training and education, she said.

“Title IX has two parts, in my mind. An athletic part, where you have to have proportionality and your budgets and all those things, and then the sexual assault and sexual violence,” she said. “(The first) part has always been a part of my toolkit. ... Sexual assault, harassment, especially violence and education training, that is something that I really excelled in on our campus.”

Gawlik faces challenges going forward outside of Spear’s transgressions. Men’s basketball coach Don Verlin was fired for cause in June after an investigation into three potential NCAA violations, including illegal participation of a non-coaching staff member in practices and games.

U of I also has a new leader of the university as a whole, as Green was named president on April 11. Green, a U of I graduate, took over for Chuck Staben, whose contract was not renewed.

Gawlik has spent a whopping total of three hours on campus at Idaho and has yet to meet a single coach. But accepting the job was no leap of faith, she said. That’s because Green’s vision for getting things on track, combined with the feeling she got from the university as a whole, was all she needed.

“The minute I met (Green), after five minutes, I knew,” Gawlik said. “I could just tell from their questions, everybody’s so passionate about wanting this department to regain its state, an emphasis on being the school of the state, and everybody’s so nice. So even though they’re asking me tough questions, I just felt like it was it was home.”

An athletic director’s relationship with a president is of the utmost importance, Gawlik said.

“When I went in and talk to Barry (Alvarez) about this job, that was the first thing he told me. ‘Terry, it’s about the president. You need to have a good relationship with the president,’” Gawlik said. “Several other people I reached out to spoke highly of President Green, even though he’s not been in this position before.”

Gawlik has yet to find a place to live for her and her husband. As she did when she was at Wisconsin, she said she plans on living just outside the town where the college itself resides.

In a perfect world, the Texas native might have gone back to the Lone Star state. But Moscow is where she wants to be right now.

“(Location was) very important. I targeted this area. ... I would have loved to somehow gone back to Texas. But it’s also very hot down there,” she said with a laugh. “This just worked. There’s no fly fishing in Texas.”

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Michael Katz covers breaking news at the Idaho Statesman. He attended the University of Southern California and grew up in Pasadena, California.