Gene Taylor bid a tearful farewell to North Dakota State. He begins to choke up at the 1:42 mark of his Monday press conference:
Gene Taylor was hired to share the load.
In the ever-shifting world of college sports – which includes Big Ten offices in Chicago and New York – no athletic director can be two places at once. So Iowa’s Gary Barta lured Taylor away from North Dakota State to be the Hawkeyes’ deputy director of athletics.
The newly created position tweaks the leadership structure for an Iowa athletic department with an annual budget of more than $84 million.
“The demands of the job have changed,” said Taylor, who spent the past 13 years as NDSU’s athletic director. “And as college athletics, particularly in the BCS world, expands and grows, it makes a lot of sense.”
Taylor will be responsible for administrative oversight of day-to-day operations. He also will supervise select Hawkeye sports programs and serve as a primary decision-maker in Barta’s absence.
“Gene Taylor is highly respected across the country and has been a leader in college athletics for more than quarter of a century,” Barta said in a statement. “He shares the values of Iowa and will comfortably fit the Hawkeye culture.”
Iowa isn’t the only Big Ten school with an expansive administration.
Ohio State lists 20 senior, associate or assistant athletic directors on its website. Michigan State has 17, including deputy athletic director Greg Ianni. Iowa’s website lists eight.
“You’re talking bigger budgets, more pressure and all those things,” Taylor said. “I think that’s what Gary was looking for in this position: Somebody with a fairly decent level of experience who could come in and (Barta) would feel comfortable when he’s not around to help manage stuff.”
Taylor, 56, has spent 28 years in athletic administration.
At North Dakota State, he oversaw the school’s transition from NCAA Division II to Division I.
The school won three straight national championships at the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision level. NDSU sports programs have won 57 conference titles since 2007-08, including nine this past school year.
“I think it’s just the next stage of my career,” Taylor said of coming to Iowa. “One of my goals has always been to be at a BCS-level school, hopefully someday have a chance to be a BCS athletic director.
“When I visited with Gary and got a chance to understand a little bit more about Iowa’s program, I thought it was a good fit for me and how I think.”
Taylor’s arrival follows the retirement of Mark Abbott, a longtime member of Iowa’s senior staff. More retirements are expected in the near future.
“I’m not going to replace anybody,” Taylor said. “I’m just going to kind of add another level of support to the administrators and coaches who are already there.”