GREENSBORO — Kim Record’s ouster as UNCG’s athletics director, according to her former boss, was a necessary decision to help the Spartans’ athletics department achieve more nationally.
UNCG Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam Jr. told the university’s Board of Trustees on Thursday that envisioning the future “sometimes ... requires making hard decisions, necessary but hard” and that it was in the best interest of the athletics program, athletes and community “to make a change in leadership.”
“Our goal with our college sports program is not to just be competitive,” Gilliam said. “Our goal is to win and is to win on the national stage. ...
“The goal is not just to get there, but the goal is to win.”
Gilliam’s remarks were the first publicly to come close to addressing Record’s exit as a firing. Record, a career administrator who was in line to lead the national athletics directors association, was notified Sept. 1 that her 12-year tenure at the university would end Sept. 3, two weeks into a new year of competition.
Record, Gilliam and university counsel Jerry D. Blakemore signed a separation agreement, one resulting in Record being paid her full annual salary of $202,300, that in part read “it is in their mutual best interest to terminate said Employment Contract.” Record’s contract was to expire June 30, 2022.
“It’s not about where we have been, it is about where we want to go,” Gilliam said. “It’s my job to make decisions that will get us there. ...
“We were decisive in this case; we’ll stand by that.”
Gilliam has declined a request from a News & Record journalist to answer questions about his decision. In a message posted Sept. 3 at UNCGSpartans.com, Gilliam said that Record was “stepping down” and praised the 15 Southern Conference championships during Record’s tenure, the academic performance of athletes and her role in fundraising.
Record has said she understands the business, that she could’ve been terminated without cause, but she added, “I was shocked it was effective two days later.”
The university is seeking proposals from search firms to help it identify a new athletics director. Kevin Bostian, who came to UNCG in April 2020 as the executive associate athletics director for advancement, is serving as interim athletics director.
As Gilliam did in a discussion in a report to the trustees’ athletics committee Tuesday, he mentioned abilities to raise funds and generate revenue to the full board as the first attributes that Record’s successor should have.
UNCG reported athletics spending of about $17.5 million (revenues of $18.4 million) for the 2019-20 fiscal year to the U.S. Department of Education. Gilliam touted success by other mid-major universities in NCAA Division I, including Gonzaga with its NCAA Tournament runner-up men’s basketball program plus Coastal Carolina, Virginia Commonwealth and James Madison.
Gonzaga, in Spokane, Wash., has an enrollment of just more than 5,000 students. Gonzaga’s athletics department spent just more than $30 million in 2019-20, but nearly $10 million of that helped fund men’s basketball.
UNCG spent $2.3 million on men’s basketball in that same year. The Spartans won the Southern Conference Tournament championships and advanced to NCAA Tournaments in 2018 and 2021, nearly beating Gonzaga in 2018. Coach Wes Miller, who led the program for 10 seasons, left in April to take the head coaching job at Cincinnati, and the UNCG program officially began preseason practice this week under new coach Mike Jones.
Coastal Carolina, whose football team is becoming a top 25 regular and whose baseball team won the College World Series in 2016, has a total budget of about $31 million, having spent about $10 million on football in 2019-20.
Virginia Commonwealth, whose men’s basketball program often reaches the NCAA Tournament and made the 2011 Final Four, reported a budget of about $31.5 million in 2019-20. James Madison, with a football team that has played in three of the last five national title games in the Football Championship Subdivision and won the title in 2016, reported a budget of $48 million.
Like Gonzaga and Virginia Commonwealth, UNCG does not field a football program.
By comparison, fellow University of North Carolina system schools North Carolina ($107.8 million) and N.C. State ($88.6 million) generate and spend big dollars as high-profile members of the ACC.
In 2018-19, the last athletics year that was not affected by the pandemic, UNCG finished No. 255 of 295 universities, and seventh among seven Southern Conference programs, in the Learfield Cup standings that measure overall sports superiority across the nation. In 2017-18, UNCG ranked No. 173 of 292 and was No. 3 among Southern Conference programs.
“What we’re looking for in our next athletic director is a seasoned fundraiser, an experienced manager who understands athletic budgets and can be creative with revenue generation,” Gilliam said. “As I told the athletics committee, we’re a sports program that relies on student fees, and the vagaries of student fees requires a real flexibility and creativity when you budget.”
According to the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, student fees account for about $11.2 million, of 62 percent, of the revenue in UNCG’s athletics budget. Donor contributions totaled about $1.53 million, or 8 percent.
An undergraduate student on campus who is a North Carolina resident and is taking at least 12 credit hours pays an athletics fee of $390 per semester, or $780 for a full year.
Eddie Wooten is sports editor of the Winston-Salem Journal and the News & Record in Greensboro.