WISE — UVa-Wise Athletic Director Danny Sterling said Sunday the school hopes to hire a new head football coach by January.
“We’re going to go out and get the best coach that we can get,” Sterling said in a press conference at the UVa-Wise Prior Convocation Center.
The press conference came on the heels of an announcement earlier Sunday that UVa-Wise coach Dewey Lusk resigned after five years as head coach of the football program. Lusk amassed an overall record of 13-42 as head coach of the Cavalier program.
In addition to Lusk, the entire football coaching staff was released Sunday.
“The resignation of coach Lusk triggered a change in the status of the coaching staff,” said Sterling.
Lusk and defensive coordinator Dino Kaklis had one year remaining in their coaching contracts. Sterling said the buyout of those contracts are still being negotiated and terms were not disclosed. The remaining assistant coaches either had their contracts expire or were not on a contract basis, Sterling said.
According to Sterling, the new coach needs to be in place in January in order to put a staff in place and be ready to assume the duties of recruiting, spring practices and other duties.
In addition, the AD said the football program would have a new look, thanks in big part to an athletic endowment fund that was started two years ago.
“These were plans that were put in place long ago,” Sterling said of the athletic fund. “The timing is what it is.”
While Sterling said the pool of money the new head football coach will have to hire assistants will be in large part at that coach’s discretion, the athletic fund endowment will enable the football program to grow from two full-time assistant positions to likely four of five full-time assistant positions. In addition, the amount of scholarships will grow from the current 21 to the Mountain East Conference’s average in the low 30s.
The search for a new coach is accelerated thanks to the school’s decision to use Atlanta-based Parker Executive Search, which will conduct a nation-wide search.
“Their primary role is to isolate candidates for us,” Sterling said. “In the end, the decision is UVa-Wise’s decision.”
With the help of the search firm, UVa-Wise Chancellor Dr. Donna Henry said the school hopes to have the candidates for the job on campus in December. Henry said athletics is a key component to the overall success of UVa-Wise.
“Our students need the full experience and athletics is a big part of that,” she said of college life. “Not just for our student-athletes, but for all of our students.”
In order to make the NCAA Division II school more competitive, Henry said UVa-Wise started a six-year plan to raise $10 million for an athletic endowment fund two years ago.
“I can tell you that is north of $8.5 million right now and that’s in two years,” she said. “We want to make sure that our student athletes have the best in facilities and equipment and what they need to be competitive.”
Sterling and Henry met with the football team just prior to the press conference to give the players the news of Lusk’s resignation.
“There was surprise. It was a shock. Dewey is an unbelievably good guy. So, there was a little shock,” Sterling said.
Now, he said the focus is on the future of the program.