Bardo: Boatright’s basketball background didn’t disqualify him as a potential football leader

Wichita State president John Bardo increased the football talk with his football pictures on social media.
Wichita State president John Bardo increased the football talk with his football pictures on social media.

The Wichita State football guessing game is an entertaining topic revved to max speed since the university started talking about the sport in December.

What does university president John Bardo want? Does he love football? Where’s the money? What will the helmets look like?

Last week, Bardo named Darron Boatright director of athletics, removing the interim label from his title.

What does that move mean for football?

Boatright, 41, isn’t what’s known as a “football guy.”

He worked on the basketball staffs at Murray State and Alabama. He oversaw other sports and worked in fund-raising at Murray State and Alabama at Birmingham. While at Murray State from 2005-08, he worked with football game operations, fund-raising and sales.

“I don’t see him being a basketball guy as being a detriment at all — he fully gets it,” Bardo said Tuesday during an interview updating the study of football and conference affiliation. “My sense of Darron is he understands why I’m worried about it. He understands the business model we’re trying to walk through. He has enough national contacts to be able to keep us in play.”

Boatright, who came to WSU in 2010, started his career in football-heavy environments.

“Spending nine years living in Tuscaloosa, Ala., exposed me to football quite a bit,” he said. “I don’t necessarily think you need a football guy to lead a football program, no more than you need a basketball guy to lead a basketball program. What you need is someone with strong vision and strong leadership ability. Someone that wants to jump in and support any program you have.”

Bardo handed Boatright a lead role on the study of the department’s future in December. Bardo said Boatright’s plan and organization impressed him.

Just as important, Boatright worked through men’s basketball coach Gregg Marshall’s outburst and suspension in Canada, the suspension and resignation of men’s tennis coach Brad Louderback and the resignation of pitching coach Brent Kemnitz.

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“He handled a number of really difficult things this year and he handled them well,” Bardo said. “In sports, it’s 80-percent emotion, so you’re all out there and he handled things extremely well.”

With those experiences over the past nine months, Bardo made a move that also provided stability. He didn’t want more turnover in the department as it is evaluating major changes.

“We’ve got enough going on at the university I’m not going to be the guy that does that — it’s going to have to come from the athletic director,” Bardo said. “I believe in promoting from within if you have a person who’s capable of doing the work.”

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop