MOSCOW — It was a whirlwind week for new Idaho athletic director Terry Gawlik, who met with Idaho fans here for the first time at a social event Friday at the Best Western Plus University Inn.
Gawlik sat down for an interview this week to discuss becoming Idaho’s first female athletic director and her vision for Vandal athletics.
The former 25-year administrator at Wisconsin officially starts Sept. 1.
STEPHAN WIEBE: It’s official. How does it feel to be the new athletic director of the University of Idaho?
TERRY GAWLIK: It feels incredible and so privileged to have this opportunity for myself and my husband.
SW: You’re the first female athletic director at UI and one of five in the Big Sky Conference. What does it mean to be a part of that group?
TG: Actually, I had looked about a month ago at who were all the athletic directors in the conference, and I kind of put it aside because I had more things to do. When the Big Sky yesterday put up five women (on social media) — wow, that’s pretty incredible.
Two of them I know pretty well. Debbie Corum (of Southern Utah) and Lynn Hickey up the road here at Eastern (Washington). She’s from Texas too. I think it’s incredible to have this opportunity and I welcome it.
SW: UI’s rivalry with Boise State has kind of been on the back burner lately. Any plans to try to renew that rivalry in basketball and football?
TG: I think it makes sense. I think the footprint is right, so, again, I’ll talk to the coaches too, but to me it makes sense. Why wouldn’t we be playing somebody like that or somebody eight miles away (WSU), or whatever direction we want to go in?
SW: How do you plan to proceed with hiring a new men’s basketball coach? Will you wait until the spring to start looking at it or do you start the search now?
TG: Quite honestly, I’ll be doing a lot of talking to people and a lot of evaluating the whole athletic department just to see what’s going well, what do we need to change, what are some things I could initiate here. In working with the basketball coaches, I want to make sure they’re doing things by the rules, they’re educating kids. That needs to be at the forefront.
I think (interim coach) Zac (Claus) has stepped into a tough situation and I hope he is successful.
SW: You mentioned in your introductory presser you have some sort of connection to Claus?
TG: There’s two things. His sister (Sarah Claus) works at Wisconsin. And then he was at an institution I coached at in Texas, Austin College.
SW: Many Vandal fans are passionate about wanting Idaho back in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). What is your response to them?
TG: I get it. First, I think the (Big Sky Conference in the FCS) is a great footprint for the University of Idaho. It’s regional — you can get to schools that are closer than other conferences. I think if we’re ever going to contemplate going back to FBS, you’ve got to be competitive at FCS and build things to get there.
You never know what will happen down the road, but one of the things you have to do when you’re in FBS is attendance. You’ve got to make sure you have the numbers there. Even the school I went to grad school — Texas State — they had trouble. They jumped up (to FBS) and it took them five or six years. I think they really got out in front of it and made sure ticket sales were (appropriate).
SW: Idaho is in the process of starting to build a new basketball arena, Idaho Central Credit Union Arena. What do you know about the project so far and what will it do for the athletic department?
TG: Once I saw the plans for it — it’s a beautiful building. It will be a great section for campus to celebrate. It’s gorgeous. It’s always exciting when you build new venues.
I heard one of the members of the search committee mention that soccer is going to get a new locker room. Anytime you can get a new locker room, that’s super cool too. I think just being able to have extreme pride in a building like that will be great to bring people to campus and showcase what we have here.
SW: UI president Scott Green said your implementation of Title IX objectives at Wisconsin was one of the factors that stood out to the search committee. What were some of your those?
TG: I’ve been monitoring our athletic Title IX since I want to say 1996. I was charged with doing the sexual assault, sexual violence, harrassment working with campus, and really began working closely with campus (and) our Title IX director.… I made sure they knew how we were educating our coaches and student athletes, so that’s been really good to make sure the campus knows that those types of things are going on.
We created these simulations … of real situations that happened. Should it be reported? What should happen? What should you do? And to me, those are the best ways to educate people. Every coach in the department came to it and then we had other people as well. It was really phenomenal that people opened up and asked questions. I would like to pursue doing that here. I need to talk to Erin (Agidius), the Title IX person here on campus, and get her insight into what’s been going on as well.
SW: You mentioned this was the only job you applied for. What drew you to Idaho?
TG: I think mainly the area — when I got here I knew it was right because of the people, the facility, you have a new president. I knew when I met the president if it was right it would be a great job, and it was right because he’s a great guy, he’s a visionary. Everybody here’s been super accommodating …. And everybody’s excited — everybody’s ready to get things going. I look forward to that.
SW: What will be your first order of business?
TG: Mainly meeting people, shaking their hand, looking them in the eye and trying to get to know more of what this place is about. Clearly it’s a smaller campus. I want to be engaged on campus, try to figure out ways to do that. I want (the) campus to know that we’re their partners, they’re our partners. That’s the way we should operate.
SW: Anything you’re looking forward to doing in the community?
TG: I’m going to the (Moscow) Farmer’s Market on Saturday. And I joked in my press conference that when I get time, I’ll go fly fishing somewhere. That’ll come after. That’s not the most important box to check off.
SW: Anything else you want to add?
TG: Just that I’m excited to be here, I’m excited to get out here and get going and meet as many people as I can and be engaged.