BOISE — Terry Gawlik knows there will be a lot on her plate when she takes over as the University of Idaho’s Athletic Director on Sept. 1.
Hiring a new men’s basketball coach, building a new basketball arena and dealing with the fallout of the football program dropping from the FBS to FCS classifications are all issues facing the incoming head of Vandals Athletics, the first woman to ever hold the post.
But the biggest issue facing Gawlik may be dealing with the damage done to the university due to what was found to be a mishandling of allegations of sexual assault by student-athletes and regaining the public trust as it pertains to student safety.
“It starts with practice what you preach,” Gawlik said about dealing with safety. “I want to talk with the campus sideline person, I want to get educated on how the coaches and athletes have been educated here, I want to know what that process is. I want to make sure that coaches understand when things happen, I don’t want to be surprised. I want them to be the one to tell me, not the Dean of Students calling me.”
Gawlik was unanimously approved as the Athletic Director on Wednesday by the Idaho State Board of Education and introduced at a press conference at the University of Idaho’s Boise campus shortly after. She receives a five-year contract, with a base pay of $200,000 per year.
She has spent the previous 25 years at the University of Wisconsin, including the previous 14 as the Senior Women’s Administrator. She was also the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Sports Administration. Gawlik has also served as chair for the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee, the Division I Volleyball Committee and the Division I Men’s Soccer Committee.
She also was heavily involved with Title IX compliance at Wisconsin, overseeing the implementation with policies involving gender equality, diversity and sexual assault and violence training.
Her predecessor, Rob Spear, was fired by Idaho in August 2018 after an investigation found Idaho and Spear’s response to reports of alleged harassment and sexual assault by student-athletes in 2012-13 was “insensitive and inadequate.”
Idaho President C. Scott Green said that Gawlik’s Title IX experience was a big selling point and a major factor as the search committee evaluated the 59 applicants he got for the position.
“We had criteria we set out with,” Green said. “No. 1 being integrity, No. 2 having experience with compliance and timeline issues and No. 3 coming from a winning program. Terry checked all those boxes, and more. It was very important, and I think the search committee did a great job vetting all 59 candidates. Terry just rose to the top.”
Title IX issues aren’t all Gawlik will be faced with when she begins the job. Her first major coaching hire already awaits her. The Vandals fired men’s basketball coach Don Verlin in June amid an investigation into three possible NCAA violations. Assistant coach Zac Claus was named the interim coach for the 2019-20 season and a full-time replacement is expected to be hired after the season.
“I’m just going to evaluate, I have not met (Claus) yet,” said Gawlik, who did note she worked with Claus’s sister at Wisconsin and has heard lots of positive things about him talking to other people involved in college athletics. “I have not seen what they’re bringing to our student athletes. I want to take my time, I want to evaluate it and move forward at the right time.”
She was also asked during the press conference about some alumni unhappy about the football team’s move from the FBS to FCS level and back into the Big Sky. The Vandals had spent 22 seasons at the college football’s top level before moving back for the 2018 season.
Gawlik noted that the Big Sky provided the Vandals with a solid conference footprint before adding that there was a lot that needed to be done if the team was to return to the FBS.
“If we want to even consider any move back to the FBS, we have to be competitive in the FCS,” Gawlik said. “So we should work towards those goals anyway, but the goal should be hopefully we win conference championships, be the best athletic department in the State of Idaho.”
Because she has only spent a few days on campus, Gawlik acknowledges that she doesn’t know exactly what way she will deal with all the issues she’s facing, but as she learns more about the culture of the school, she says she will figure out the direction she wants to lead the department.
It’s an experience she says she’s excited for, in a location where she says her and her husband, Dan, want to be. Her in laws live in Bend, Oregon, and Gawlik said both her and Dan enjoy fly fishing, so they were ready to jump at the opportunity to move west after a quarter century in Wisconsin.
Her contract with Idaho runs through July 31, 2024, but Gawlik says she hopes her stay in Idaho will last longer than that.
“This is where my husband and I want to be,” Gawlik said. “We plan on being here as long as we can make a difference and move things forward. We want to live in or around Moscow and we want to fly fish whenever we get the opportunity.”