The UW announced yesterday the appointment of the current Assistant Athletic Director and long-time UW employee Jennifer Cohen as the interim replacement for Scott Woodward as the University's Athletic Director.
If that name sounds familiar even to the casual UW fan, it is not surprising. Cohen is a Pacific Northwest native who has been at the UW for over 15 years. She has made her mark at the University in the discipline of fundraising, both for academics and athletics. She was an instrumental leader in the initiative to fund and build the recent renovation projects involving both the baseball and football facilities.
The appointment of Cohen on an interim basis was widely expected and she is considered by many to be the leading candidate to replace Woodward on a full-time basis. The University is expected to conduct a full search and vet several candidates before making their final decision.
I consider Cohen's appointment to be good news. The UW Athletic Department is in as good a shape as it has been in a decade. Cohen, who was also pivotal in the wooing of football head coach Chris Petersen to UW, has been a major player in the refurbishment of the athletic department. She is well-respected among stakeholders, incredibly well-networked and her personality is less "administrator" and more "everyday Joe."
Personally, I'd love to see Cohen get serious consideration for the full-time role. While her presence would help maintain continuity in a program that is having success, her voice is considerably different than that of the man who just left the position. I could see Cohen bringing less ego and a deeper consideration of others' points of view to the role, including those of her employees, her donors, and the fans.
The state of the program is strong. Football and basketball are on great growth trajectories and staffed with highly regarded leaders. Non-revenue sports are blossoming, including women's basketball, volleyball, softball, baseball, crew, and men's golf. Facility needs are being addressed and fans are starting to return to their seats. Still, there is much work left to do. The needs of student-athletes are evolving in a highly unstable environment. The football gameday experience is a source of frustration. The men's basketball facility and student section situation needs to be addressed. New donors need to be engaged and developed.
UW doesn't need another lawyer or PR entrepreneur as the next AD. It needs a down-to-earth go-getter to pick up the mantle and finish all of the great work that has been started. It needs somebody who isn't going to disrupt the football apple cart and who already knows where to begin when it comes to external stakeholders. It needs one of its own to step up. Speaking as somebody who has had many dealings with academia and who has been often frustrated by the out-of-touch mentality of many academicians, I think Jen Cohen is the right person for this job.
Below is the full press release from UW.
Jennifer Cohen, senior associate athletic director at the University of Washington, has been named interim athletic director, UW President Ana Mari Cauce announced Tuesday.
Cohen steps in for Scott Woodward, who announced earlier this month he would be taking a position at Texas A&M University. Cohen's appointment is effective Feb. 1.
"With her years of experience as a senior administrator in our athletic department, Jen will provide excellent leadership as we undertake a national search for a new athletic director," said Cauce. "She understands the needs of the department very well and has a birds-eye view of the challenges it faces, particularly at this time of escalating costs and finite revenues. Her work in managing major fundraising projects will serve her very well in this regard. We're fortunate to have her able to step right into this role."
Cohen, who has been with the UW for 15 years, currently oversees the athletic department's development efforts. The football and baseball programs also report directly to her. A native of Tacoma, she joined the athletic department staff in 1998 as an assistant director of development before moving to the university's central development office to focus on fundraising efforts on behalf of the office of undergraduate education. She also spent time with the UW's regional gifts program before returning to athletics to oversee the department's major gifts program.
Cohen and her team spearheaded the "Drive for Husky Stadium" campaign, in which the department raised over $50 million in gifts for the renovation of Husky Stadium, which was completed in August 2013. Cohen has also led development efforts for a number of other initiatives, including the renovation of Hec Edmundson Pavilion and the Conibear Shellhouse, the construction of the Dempsey Indoor Practice Facility, the Husky Legends Center, Husky Golf Center and various scholarship endowments.
A 1991 graduate of San Diego State University, Cohen earned her master's degree in physical education with an emphasis in sports administration, from Pacific Lutheran University in 1994. Her professional experience includes a variety of roles in intercollegiate athletics administration at Pacific Lutheran, the University of Puget Sound and Texas Tech University. She and her husband, Bill, are the parents of two sons, Tyson and Dylan.