Source: Darren Dunn to be named new athletic director at Northern Colorado
A source with knowledge of UNC's athletic director search informed The Mirror Sunday night that Darren Dunn will be the next athletic director at the University of Northern Colorado.
Dunn's most recent employer was the University of Houston, where he was the deputy athletic director. He also has worked at Northern Illinois, Tulsa and New Mexico in his 22 years in athletics. He graduated from the University of Denver, where he pitched on the baseball team, with a bachelor's degree in political science/business administration in 1991 and received a master's degree from New Mexico the following year.
UNC will make an official statement announcing the hiring Monday morning and will hold a press conference with Dunn Wednesday.
Dunn was able to share some of his vision for UNC athletics during an open forum and question-and-answer session Thursday afternoon in the Panorama Room of the University Center. He said his four main pillars in building an athletic department are student-athlete experience, engaging the region, establishing a culture of excellence and compliance.
When addressing student-athletes, he said it is important to let them know that they are important to the university.
"That will be the number one thing that we do, that we talk about every day is 'how can we make that student-athlete have a better experience, whether it's on the field or in the classroom or developing them socially?'"
With regard to working with the region, Dunn said he believes it starts on campus.
"First and foremost, we have to engage the student body here, the faculty and staff and we have to get them more involved," he said. "To me, that's where we start. But equally as important, we have to get more people from this great city of Greeley more involved."
Dunn also said that the university's scope must expand further beyond city limits, though, if the program is to become more successful and visible.
I'm talking about getting more people from Loveland to come to our events or smaller towns in Weld County," he said. "We've got to get them to come to our events. We've got to make it a great event for them to want to come."
When discussing compliance, he said he will have a zero tolerance policy.
"It doesn't matter how great you are on the field or court, there are no shortcuts if you want to be excellent," he said. "There are no shortcuts. That is one thing that we'll make really clear with our staff. Compliance: there is no exception. There is no grey area. It's black or white and it's going to be critical in our department."
Dunn noted that given UNC's standing within the scope of college athletics, it will take creativity to get to where he wants to be.
"To be great, we always have to get better and I think here, we're going to have to be creative," Dunn said. "We're going to have to think outside the box a little bit and do some bold things if we want to be great."
He said he understands athletics is not the most important part of a university but can be an asset.
"I think athletics is a great part of a university. It's not the most important part," he said. "If it was, we'd just call our student-athletes 'athletes,' but it's not the most important part. I think can bring great excitement to the university. It can bring great recognition to the university, exposure. When we had the great basketball team a few years ago in the tournament, more people learned about Northern Colorado and Greeley than probably ever in the history."
Dunn said his competitive nature will carry with him to the new position.
"I want to win conference championships," he said. "Do I want to win a national championship again? Absolutely, I think we can do that."
With an academic staff that has been largely successful recently, Dunn said his main goal is to provide it the tools to remain effective.
"We have a great academics staff. I don't really know them that well but they have done an unbelievable job when you look at APR and graduation rates so whatever they're doing, it's working," he said. "My job will continue to be to provide them resources and keep them. To me, that's first and foremost. It starts with the coaches, though. In my mind, if you don't go to class, you don't play."
Considering the lack of student support for athletics, Dunn said it is important for the department to engage them outside of The Mirror.
"We have to go to them and not just with an ad in the student newspaper," he said. "We need to engage them. We need to get involved with them. Our coaches and student-athletes need to ask them to come."
Dunn is replacing former athletic director Jay Hinrichs, who resigned June 11.
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