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Chun says he had a different Big Ten school in mind, but UW is where he’s ‘supposed to be’

Back-to-back days Huskies introduce new coach, AD

By TIM BOOTH, AP Sports Writer
Published: March 28, 2024, 2:10pm

SEATTLE — Pat Chun finished his opening remarks with a phrase that drew applause from a crowd of supporters clad in purple.

“Go Dawgs,” he said.

Yes, it sounded odd.

Chun was introduced Thursday as the new athletic director at the University of Washington, leaving behind six years in the same role at Washington State to take the reins of the rival program that will begin life in the Big Ten Conference this fall.

“We looked for the best person in the country. It was incidental that person was at Washington State,” Washington president Ana Mari Cauce said.

Since the middle of last summer, Chun had been locked in a fight with Washington and the rest of the Pac-12 members that are departing for new conferences at the end of this academic year, amid the collapse of what was the flagship conference on the West Coast. He fought on behalf of Washington State for the survival of its athletic programs as one of the two schools — along with Oregon State — left out in the last round of conference realignment.

“I think we were fighting with everybody in college athletics. It’s not one in particular,” Chun said. “I look at the last six months and it’s just another experience to help shape me.”

Chun will take over for Troy Dannen, who surprisingly left Washington after less than six months on the job to take the same position at Nebraska last week. But Chun’s hiring should bring stability after it seemed a little more than a week ago Washington was listing in the wrong direction. The Huskies didn’t have an athletic director. They didn’t have a basketball coach.

And yet, on back-to-back days, Washington introduced new basketball coach Danny Sprinkle and then Chun.

Chun agreed to a six-year contract that starts at $1.3 million in guaranteed compensation and rises to $1.7 million in the final year, according to the school.

Cauce said the school spoke with Chun six months ago prior to Dannen’s hiring, but the timing wasn’t right. At that time Washington State was reeling, trying to find stability of its own moving forward without a permanent conference for its athletic programs.

Additionally, Chun was holding out hope for the athletic director job at Ohio State — where he previously worked for 15 years — after Gene Smith announced his retirement.

The Ohio State job went to Ross Bjork, a decision that started the trickle-down that eventually landed Chun at Washington. Trev Alberts left Nebraska to take over for Bjork at Texas A&M; Dannen departed Washington for Nebraska; and now Chun has left Washington State.

“I’ve told friends this is not the Big Ten school we thought we would be at,” Chun said. “But the reality is the good lord works in different ways and this is where we’re at, this is where we’re supposed to be.”

Chun said he was in Omaha, Nebraska, last Wednesday with the Washington State men’s basketball team preparing for its first NCAA Tournament game when USC athletic director — and former Washington AD — Jen Cohen called to gauge if there might be interest in the Huskies job.

“We’re friends. So at the end of the day you’ll take a friend’s advice because she loves and cares for my family,” Chun said.

Chun isn’t walking into a perfect environment at Washington. The Huskies are on their third athletic director since the school announced it was leaving for the Big Ten last summer. It has an $8 million deficit the next fiscal year and rising debt services to be paid on the renovations of Husky Stadium from a decade ago.

There’s also the fact that Washington will only be receiving a half-share of Big Ten payouts compared to the other conference members.

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And then there’s how the decision sits 300 miles away in Pullman — where Washington State president Kirk Schulz told Cougfan.com of his disappointment in Chun’s decision and said his reaction would have been different if it was another Big Ten school other than Washington.

Washington State football coach Jake Dickert told reporters Thursday that he had a “genuine appreciation” for Chun, who hired Dickert into the full-time position following the tumultuous 2021 football season.

“We want people who want to be here and that’s from the janitor all the way to the top of the administration,” Dickert said. “We’re focused on getting the right people on our bus.”

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