Candidates to be the next UTPB athletic director

Photo courtesy Tarleton Athletics

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Last week, UTPB Vice President for Athletics Todd Dooley surprised many across the Lone Star Conference by announcing he was leaving collegiate athletics on July 1st to pursue his dream of being a pilot. 

The Falcons athletics department experienced unprecedented success during the 2023-2024 school year. UTPB had two programs - football and men’s tennis - win their first Lone Star Conference title in program history. Seven programs appeared in the NCAA Division II playoffs this year, with men’s tennis reaching the Sweet 16.

UTPB’s athletic department experienced academic success on top of its athletic achievements under Dooley’s guidance. Thirteen of the Falcons' 14 teams achieved a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

Like many universities across the Texas Non-FBS landscape, UTPB is experiencing budget cuts. Multiple sources have confirmed that each program has been asked to cut 20 percent from its budget for the upcoming season. The ability to constantly raise funds for the athletic department is the number one requirement for every institution seeking to fill an athletic director’s position in today’s college football world. On top of budget cuts, UTPB has desires to raise funds for an on-campus football stadium.

While fundraising will be the priority for UTPB’s search committee, they also need someone who understands how to build relationships across the entire university – from the president to the professors to the students. The candidate must demonstrate the importance of athletics, particularly football, to everyone associated with the school.

In other words, someone similar to Todd Dooley. With that in mind, below is a list of possible candidates to serve as UTPB’s athletic director.

Current athletic directors

Dr. Hunter Sims, Howard Payne

Sims has transformed the Yellow Jackets athletic programs during his eight years at HPU. He has been instrumental in increasing athletes' well-being and overall experience and has a background in coaching football. Sims led the fundraising effort to renovate the main lobby of the McCullough Athletic Complex into a lounge for athletes, the Nabers Tennis Center, and the Brownwood Coliseum. He also helped revamp the athletic department’s marketing and promotions, leading to a nearly double-digit increase in community sponsorships.

Larry Dockery, McMurry

A former special teams coach for the Abilene Ruff Riders and Abilene Bombers in the Indoor Football League, Dockery has spent the last nine years at McMurry. He served as wide receivers coach for the War Hawks before transitioning to Director of Athletics Operations. Dockery was named interim athletic director in June 2023 before being named Director of Athletics in February and is regarded by many as one of the best at building relationships with people.

Ryan Erwin, East Texas Baptist

The athletics department at ETBU has grown tremendously during Erwin’s eight years as Vice President and Director of Athletics. He is the first candidate listed with experience operating an athletics department at an NCAA Division II institution. Erwin previously served as Director of Athletics at Rogers State and Dallas Baptist. He is known for his ability to lead the improvement of facilities, which allowed ETBU to host the NCAA Division III Women’s Softball World Series this year. 

Ready for the next step

Kyle Grooms, Western Athletic Conference Associate Commissioner, Football and Sport Administration

Grooms has spent the last two years with the WAC as associate commissioner of football and sports administration and is the Chief Operating Officer for the United Athletic Conference. He served as a graduate assistant for administration, operations, and event management at Tulsa while working to complete his master's in business administration. Grooms spent nearly 10 years as director of football operations for the Golden Hurricanes before moving to associate athletic director for internal operations for three years before joining the WAC.

Kent Johnson, West Texas A&M Senior Associate Athletic Director for Facilities and Event Operations

Johnson is finishing up his 16th year with the WT athletics department. He manages home game-day operations for all 16 of the Buffs programs, handles day-to-day administration and operational aspects for football and men’s golf, handles play-by-play duties for men’s basketball, and is involved in various administrative and budget aspects of the athletics department. Johnson has 30 years of experience in college athletics, having served at Indiana State, TCU, Tulane, and SMU. He has also served in various media relations roles with the Indy Racing League and NASCAR.

Casey Hogan, Director of Development at the Baylor, Scott & White Dallas Foundation

A Tarleton alum, Hogan spent three years on the staff of multiple U.S. House of Representatives members. He began as an unpaid intern for John Carter and eventually served as Legislative Director for Congressman Francisco “Quico” Canseco. Known for his tremendous fundraising ability, Hogan spent seven years in two stints at Tarleton. He was assistant athletic director for development and major gifts from 2012-2016 and returned to serve as senior associate athletic director for external operations from 2019-2022. Hogan spent one year as associate athletic director for development at UTEP before joining Baylor, Scott & White Dallas Foundation.

Outside the box

Lonn Reisman, Former Tarleton Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics

Maybe Lonn Reisman wasn’t ready to retire from collegiate athletics when he ended his 36-year career at Tarleton this spring. Sources have indicated he is interested in returning to collegiate athletics. A legend in many respects, Reisman was instrumental in the career of NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman, whom he recruited to play at Southeastern Oklahoma State. As head basketball coach, Reisman led Tarleton to a 654-291 record during his 30-year tenure. The Texans' athletic programs have thrived under Reisman, who was instrumental in facility improvements across campus over the last few years.

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