MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Country roads led Wren Baker and his family to Morgantown, and West Virginia University’s administration is excited they did. Why is Baker the right fit to lead the Mountaineers?
An athletic director position at a Power Five school isn’t a typical job opening. Applicants won’t see them on regular job boards, and that is because institutions like WVU don’t want regular prospects.
In order to get it right, WVU president Gordon Gee utilized the services of TurnkeyZRG, a recruiting firm that places executives in positions across nearly every industry. Gee described the firm as the “gold standard” after building a prior rapport with the firm during the Big 12’s hiring of new commissioner Brett Yormark.
There is currently a wide range of open sports-related jobs listed on TurnkeyZRG’s site, including a posting for the President of the NCAA.
“We went through a process of really evaluating what we needed. … Obviously, you start with passion, you start with strong leadership, you start with someone who understands the new world,” Gee said.
The university fielded applications from a wide range of prospects. Some came from other Power Five institutions, others came from outside of athletics in general, Gee said, and the search quickly whittled down to around seven finalists.
After Gee, interim AD Rob Alsop and former AD Oliver Luck virtually met with the finalists, they further shortened the list to three candidates. They then flew down to Atlanta to meet with the screening committee, and Gee said it was unanimous: Baker was to be the next director of athletics in Morgantown.
“When we interviewed Wren, I can tell you he fits every one of our criteria, and in addition to being an exceptionally — and I’m going to underline ‘exceptionally’ — talented athletic director, he is a very positive person and he easily connects with everyone he meets,” Gee said. “He understands the vision, he knows where we want to go and I have no doubt he is going to get us there.”
It’s clear that Gee, his administration and many more at the university are excited about the hire. Baker has a proven track record of fundraising (or, as he described, “matchmaking”) at every institution he’s worked for. Attendance at sporting events exploded during his time at North Texas as he found creative ways to engage with the Mean Green fanbase. He even engineered one of the biggest changes to Mean Green athletics as they prepare to jump from C-USA to the AAC.
Why, though, is WVU a fit for Baker? According to him, he “speaks the language” of West Virginians, having grown up in small-town Oklahoma.
“I had the chance to talk to a lot of people as I onboarded here and that’s where I really figured out that there’s a lot of similarities in how I grew up and where I grew up and the people and the culture here,” Baker said. “It became a fit and every time I had a chance to interact with representatives of this institution, whether it be the committee or whomever, I grew more and more interested.”