New Citadel AD aims to 'win over our own campus'

Jim Senter was introduced as The Citadel's new athletic director on Wednesday. (Brad Nettles/Staff)

Before he interviewed for the job as The Citadel's athletic director in Charlotte last week, Jim Senter went on a reconnaissance mission of sorts.

Senter paid his first visit to The Citadel's campus, walking the parade deck, wandering in and out of buildings and speaking to whomever he met along the way.

"It's amazing, when no one knows who you are, what you can find out about a place," Senter said Wednesday as he was introduced as The Citadel's new AD at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

What the 52-year-old Senter saw of The Citadel was enough to convince him to move his family to Charleston from across the country in Boulder, Colo., where he's worked for nine years at the University of Colorado, most recently as senior associate athletic director. Senter is the 12th athletic director in Citadel history and replaces Larry Leckonby, who left after six years to become AD at Division II Catawba College.

Citadel president Lt. Gen. John Rosa said Senter was the "clear choice" among a field of 25 candidates presented by the executive search firm of Eastman & Beaudine, to which the military school paid a fee of $45,000 to find its new AD. Other finalists were Mike Buddie, associate AD at Wake Forest, and Devin Crosby, a deputy AD at Kent State, Rosa said.

Senter leaves a school in Colorado that has an athletic budget of some $66 million for The Citadel, where the athletic department has an annual budget of about $13 million. Rosa said he expects his new AD to set a strategic plan for the school going forward.

"What I'm really looking forward is a strategic picture, a long-range plan for our athletic department," Rosa said. "Larry (Leckonby) did a great job at building on our finances. What we need to look at now is as we age, what is the athletic department going to look like. He can bring to us a much more strategic look at where we're going."

On his campus tour, Senter was struck by the cleanliness of the place - "Not a single piece of trash!" - and impressed by a conversation he had with Charles Clark, a sophomore cadet and a football player from Mount Pleasant and Bishop England High School.

"What you are really talking about here is finding common people with an uncommon desire to be uncommon, and to do things differently than the way our world and society works today," he said. "That what's this place is about in developing principled leaders, and so that's an attraction to me."

But he also was quick to see that The Citadel has work to do in uniting its own campus with the athletic department.

"We need to do a better job of reaching out to the internal constituents on our campus," he said. "The faculty, the staff, the Corps of Cadets ... We've got to win over the people who are on our own campus. If we don't own the 300 acres on our own campus, how are we going to win over Charleston or the Lowcountry? We've got to do a great job right here.

"I can assure you, we're going to be woven into the fabric of this campus," he said. "We're going to have more friends, more loyal supporters and more of a following on this campus than we've ever had before. But it's a team effort and doesn't just happen because we have a new AD. It's a change in the culture."

With a background as a coach, a fund-raiser and an administrator, Senter is especially qualified to make that happen, according to his peers around the country.

Senter is "passionate, poised, and an industrious community partner with a strong business acumen," said Cincinnati athletic director Mike Bohn, who worked with Senter at Colorado, San Diego State and Idaho.

"Jim is an outstanding person with high morals and an impeccable character. He has been a significant player in developing our strategic plan and charting the direction of CU athletics. Our loss is certainly The Citadel's gain," said Rick George, AD at Colorado.

Senter has yet to sign a contract with The Citadel. Leckonby was making an annual salary of $164,970 when he left the school. Senter will return to Colorado this weekend, and hopes to be at work at The Citadel by the time the Bulldogs play their football season opener against Coastal Carolina on Aug. 30.

Follow Jeff Hartsell on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC