Not too long ago, Terrance J. Tumey was coordinating budgets and scouting out teams and their players for the San Francisco 49ers. He could have even been drawing up a pro-con list of possible draft picks like Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers.
Now he faces a new assignment, similar to ones he has tackled before, but inherently of a different nature. Into his hands falls the UC Davis athletic program, which is to say, the 23 athletic teams, over 600 student-athletes and the $23 million budget that goes along with it all.
Terrance Tumey was selected from the pool of four finalists that all went through a long selection process that began back in 2011 when Greg Warzecka officially left his position as the UC Davis Athletic Director.
Nona Richardson had been filling in as interim Athletic Director while the ongoing search persisted, and now will return to her post as the executive senior associate athletics director/senior women’s administrator.
Amid the strategic audit, more commonly known as the ‘Dempsey Report,’ the Athletic Director decision process was delayed several times. The final four candidates weathered meetings, forums and interviews with the selection committee of UC Davis faculty, students, alumni and athletic department representatives.
“In Terry Tumey, we’ve found the perfect person to take UC Davis Athletics forward,” said Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi at the July 5 announcement.
Tumey emerged from this flurry of a process, not necessarily as the last one standing, but rather the one deemed fittest to move on in the process and face the next challenge. The daunting task of making UC Davis a frontrunner in athletics and academics falls into his hands.
“Davis as an institution had already set itself out there, and there are a lot of reasons for it being world-renown. ,” Tumey said.
“My job is to find out how I can push UC Davis as an academic entity that has never wavered, and access that abundance of athletic potential.”
Though Tumey has only been at the helm of the Aggie athletic programs for a couple of months, many say that UC Davis has already seen a good sample of the new era under his leadership.
One of the goals Tumey has is to attend as many UC Davis athletic events possible. Thus far, he has been true to his word, and that has not gone unnoticed.
“He’s a guy who’s rolling up his sleeves and gathering up a lot of information,” said football coach Bob Biggs. “He’s taking an active part in understanding the program and finding solutions for the people and administrators that are a part of UC Davis.”
Tumey’s past is essentially a path of stepping stones that led to his development as the right candidate for the position of Athletic Director here at UC Davis.
He has a history in the UC school system, having played football as an undergraduate at UCLA prior to getting his Master of Business Administration at UCLA’s Anderson Graduate School of Management.
One of Tumey’s goals with the Aggies is to move forward as a whole, rather than as separate athletic and academic entities, and this is a concept that appears to be a fundamental principle of his lifestyle.
Tumey spent several years working with corporate finances before returning to athletics, when he served the Denver Broncos as an assistant defensive coach from 1999-2000. In 2001 he began a stint with the San Francisco 49ers where he moved up in status to a senior-level management member by 2009, when he would leave to become the Director of Athletics at Dominican University of California in San Rafael.
“I think from being a student-athlete in the UC system and going through what was one of the top business schools in the world at the time surrounded me with excellence,” Tumey said. “As UC Davis strives for athletic and academic excellence, I’ll try to put the business and academic principles into place that will lead into what people see as the Aggie athletic experience.”
Tumey guided Dominican’s athletic program from an NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) standing to NCAA Division II, an experience that may prove valuable given the Aggies’ recent switch to Division I.
This new athletic director is not simply a sports man, nor is he just an administrator. He is a business man, seeing the university and the community it is in as a set of interdependent systems that can be applied to frameworks, then solved.
In order to understand and crack the puzzle that will unlock what Tumey referred to as UC Davis’s potential, it’s going to take time and comprehensive understanding. And from what we have learned so far, Tumey will be putting in the time to gain this awareness.
“I’m trying to find what kept UC Davis a sleeping giant so long, what are the things that are stopping it from growing as an athletic entity,” Tumey said. “It has done very well with an overall sports portfolio, and understanding what foundation gets the community and students engaged is what I’m working on.”
Biggs, in his last year at UC Davis, feels that the Aggies are in good hands.
“He listens and accepts input and is going to make decisions that are in the best regard for the whole program,” Biggs said. “He works with coaches and administrators to find what coaches need to be competitive, and that’s what coaches and athletes appreciate.”
It can’t be certain, but given Tumey’s background in both business and athletics, it would seem as if his professional experience has been training for this opportunity, the opportunity to pioneer one of the world’s top universities on its road of excellence that can be summarized in two words: Aggie Pride.
MATTHEW YUEN can be reached at email@example.com.