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U. of Pittsburgh
Boehm gives up on Pitt, leaves for Nebraska

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

By Gerry Dulac, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

For more than four months, University of Pittsburgh officials indicated very strongly to Marc Boehm they wanted him to succeed Steve Pederson as athletic director.

Marc Boehm

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Boehm was told his position as interim athletic director, a role he had held since Dec. 20, was merely an audition for the vacant position. He was told the audition was orchestrated with one purpose in mind -- hiring him as Pederson's replacement.

And Boehm took the audition seriously, making more than his share of major decisions and, in the past three weeks, hiring coaches in two of the school's top three sports -- Jamie Dixon in men's basketball and Agnus Berenato in women's basketball.

What's more, an eight-person search committee, appointed by Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, never interviewed a candidate to replace Pederson. The only action the committee took was to unanimously endorse Boehm as the next athletic director.

But Boehm finally got tired of waiting for the university to make a decision. Yesterday, after waiting 4 1/2 months for something to happen, Boehm, 41, said he was leaving the university to become executive associate athletic director at the University of Nebraska, where he will be reunited with Pederson, his former boss.

"I have decided to return to my Midwest roots," Boehm said in a prepared statement. "I spoke to Chancellor Nordenberg and withdrew my name from consideration in the university's national search for a new athletic director. Although he graciously praised my work and strongly encouraged me to reconsider, I declined, believing that the timing was not right for me and my family."

Boehm, who was born in Lincoln, Neb., will be closer to his mother, brother, and sister, who live two hours away in Topeka, Kan. His wife, Janelle, is from Minot, N.D., about eight hours from Lincoln. He will be reunited with Pederson, for whom he worked as his top assistant at Pitt since 1997, and will oversee the Nebraska men's and women's basketball program and direct the department's licensing, marketing and fund-raising projects.

When Pederson was hired in December, he told Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman his only request was to bring along Boehm, provided Boehm wasn't hired as athletic director at Pitt. When Boehm grew weary of waiting for Pitt to act, Pederson created a position in his department to woo his former associate.

"Marc Boehm is uniquely talented and prepared for this position," Pederson said. "I am thrilled he has agreed to join us."

But Boehm wouldn't have left Pitt if the university had offered him a contract as athletic director. Even when Nordenberg tried last week to persuade Boehm to reconsider his decision, the chancellor never offered to immediately appoint him athletic director -- a move that likely would have prevented Boehm from leaving.

Pitt's failure to appoint Boehm played a small part in Wake Forest Coach Skip Prosser's decision not to replace Ben Howland as the Panthers' basketball coach last month. Pitt and Prosser had agreed to financial terms, but Prosser wanted to know whom the athletic director would be and Boehm could not tell him with any assurance.

Boehm declined further comment last night.

"For the past several weeks, our principal focus in athletics has been on recruiting new men's and women's basketball coaches," Nordenberg said in a prepared statement. "Ideally, we might have preferred to fill the athletic director's position first, but circumstances did not permit that. We had coaching vacancies to fill and, in Marc Boehm, we had a capable professional to lead those efforts, which we brought to very positive conclusions."

Boehm's departure is another blow to an athletic department that, in the past five months, has lost Pederson and Howland, who left to return home to UCLA.

Boehm, though, has been running the department since Pederson's departure. In that time, he announced a new season-ticket plan for Pitt home football games; fired two coaches, including women's basketball coach Traci Waites; hired Dixon, a former assistant coach, to replace Howland; and hired Berenato, the head coach at Georgia Tech, to replace Waites.

With Boehm gone, the next person in charge at Pitt is Carol Sprague, senior associate athletic director. However, Sprague has not been appointed interim athletic director and it is unclear just how the university plans to run the department.

Boehm, who does not begin his Nebraska duties until May 27, will continue to assist Nordenberg in an unofficial capacity in some departmental matters.

"We will focus on bringing the athletic director search to a rapid and equally positive end," Nordenberg said.

The search committee, which is chaired by executive Vice Chancellor Jerry Cochran, will immediately begin interviewing candidates for the vacant position.

Boehm's departure comes at a bad time because the Big East Conference is facing the possibility of disbanding if Miami, Syracuse and Boston College opt to join the Atlantic Coast Conference. If that happens, Pitt is expected to petition the Big Ten Conference for admission.

Cochran declined comment.

"I have respect for Chancellor Nordenberg and the many things he has done to make the University of Pittsburgh a great institution," Boehm said. "I know he will find a qualified athletic director who will continue to lead the athletic department to greatness. When Steve Pederson called me this past week and asked that I join him in Nebraska, I knew immediately it was the right decision to leave."

Gerry Dulac can be reached at gdulac@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1466.

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