Wake Forest will have a new Athletic Director effective May 1st, as Ron Wellman will retire and John Currie will take over. David Glenn was the first to break this news when he filed an article with The Athletic Carolina last night around midnight.
BREAKING: Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman, one of the longest-tenured ADs in the nation, is retiring. A Wake Forest alum, with AD experience elsewhere, will be his successor. My post @TheAthleticCAR:https://t.co/fzJBQXj7qe— David Glenn Show (@DavidGlennShow) March 3, 2019
The news was confirmed by Wake Forest in an official press release this morning.
Wellman has been at Wake Forest for 27 years after he took over for Gene Hooks in 1992. Under Wellman the Deacs thrived and became national powerhouses in Men’s Tennis, Men’s Soccer, and Women’s Field Hockey. The football program has seen the most successful stretch in school history recently as well under Jim Grobe and Dave Clawson.
His fundraising and expansion of Wake Forest facilities and athletics are a massive part of why Wake is where it is today in those sports, and full credit should be given to him for that.
It started off well in basketball too with the Deacs winning back-to-back ACC Championships in 1995-96 under Dave Odom (he was hired by Hooks, not Wellman), but the past ten years have been an unmitigated disaster under Jeff Bzdelik and Danny Manning.
John Currie is a Wake Forest alum (1993), and per the official press release, worked at Wake for six years in the 90’s before moving on to become the athletic director at Kansas State (2009-2017), and then Tennessee (2017). Recently he has been working as a consultant at Texas while teaching a class at Columbia University.
He will be the third Wake Forest athletic director since 1964, as Hooks was at Wake Forest for 28 years before Wellman.
He won the Bobby Dodd Athletic Director Award and Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year in 2013.
Currie was on my list of three people Wake should look at to hire after Ron Wellman (the other two being Mike Buddie at Furman and Michael Kelly at South Florida).
It is clear that he wants to continue to carry on a strong emphasis on Olympic sports for the school overall and not just basketball and football.
“I want to make sure our student-athletes know that we care about all of them. (Ron) always cared about every sport and competing at the highest level and I do too,” Currie said.
I asked him what he was going to be doing in the next couple of months to prepare for the May 1st official start.
“God gave us two ears, two eyes, and only one mouth for a reason. My plan is to do a lot of listening and learning. I know a lot of people around here, but I also need to meet a lot of the new folks here too.”
Currie was in the national headlines in 2017 for what many saw as a massive failure in attempting to hire a Tennessee football coach.
He fired Butch Jones in November of 2017 and was seeking to hire Greg Schiano as the next Tennessee coach, but when that information leaked out he faced severe protests from nearly everybody affiliated with Rocky Top, partially because of Schiano’s work with Penn State and Jerry Sandusky in the 1990s.
Although personally I think most Tennessee fans were against the hiring of Schiano due to what they thought he would do to the program on the field and were simply using his ties Happy Valley and Sandusky to prevent the hiring from happening.
After the Schiano incident, Currie was rejected by a lot of candidates to take over the job at Rocky Top and eventually flew out to Washington to offer Mike Leach the head job (against his Chancellor’s wishes, which resulted in the suspension and firing). Phillip Fulmer took over the AD role and eventually hired Jeremy Pruitt
If you are a Wake fan (which I assume most who read this are), I would prepare to take some flak on this hire due to that botching, and also because Tennessee fans just despise him. While there are certainly things that Currie could have done differently there, I don’t really think that episode causes a lot of concern for Wake Forest and what he will do here.
Overall I think this is going to be a very good hire for several reasons.
Currie is an excellent fundraiser, he hired Bruce Weber at Kansas State, and he is a Wake Forest graduate (which is a big deal to me for an AD to understand what and who Wake is).
He also understands where Wake Forest is in the NCAA landscape and how important we can be.
“Wake Forest should always be a leader and college athletics needs the values of Wake Forest to be front and center. That means winning ballgames too. As a leader you have a responsibility to not only practice these values, but lead through winning.”
I also checked in to see where he thought the NCAA was in today’s day and age.
“Without a doubt, the value of a scholarship has never been greater for college athletes. With easier transfer rules, increased affordability, and the ability for student-athletes to follow their own path, almost every single aspect is better than it was 26 years ago when I started out. The critical thing is to ensure that as we evaluate different challenges in the landscape overall that we continue to lead from the front and that means winning too.”
Let’s go ahead and look at into the biggest thing on everybody’s mind - the basketball situation.
Basketball has long been the marquee sport in the ACC and at Wake Forest, and despite the recent success in the other sports, fans do not accept what we have seen the past few years.
This change from Wellman to Currie is no doubt a precursor to a change in who will be our basketball coach moving forward. The million dollar question is “when does this change occur?”.
The May 1st date is a bit tricky, as most basketball coaching hires are made in late March or early April. My guess is that while Currie will officially take over on May 1st, he will be transitioning into the position starting as soon as possible and be in charge of any changes that are made before May 1st. Without seeing a contract it could also have something to do financially for Wellman and Wake more than anything else.
I have heard that this move has been in the works for a while, which means Currie should have a great idea on who he could possibly hire after moving on from Manning.
Wellman has done exceptional things for Wake Forest athletics, but basketball has been an abject failure under his leadership. The last thing I wanted was for Wellman to fire Manning and then hire another coach before retiring.
Hopefully by hiring Currie now it makes everything fit timing wise and he can go ahead and make the move after this basketball season regarding Manning and get a new start in basketball.
Despite my lack of enthusiasm with Ron Wellman at times, I believe that he did great things for Wake Forest overall and he led the University well over the past 27 years.
It is now time to welcome John Currie home and see what he can do for Wake in the future. I am excited to see what that holds and am glad we are hiring a Wake Forest graduate for this job.