Athletic director Gene Taylor is leaving Fargo to take the No. 2 position in athletics at Iowa, with hopes of someday landing the top job at a Bowl Championship Subdivision school. Taylor, who will work under Hawkeyes athletic director and former NDSU quarterback Gary Barta, said this is his best route.
"Some may not necessarily agree with that. Believe me I can't tell you how many people I've talked to about this because I knew this was going to be such an agonizing decision," Taylor said. "Those that I talked to in the profession, including Gary, have indicated that if the BCS route is the way I want to go, this may be the step I have to take."
Taylor, 56, fought back tears several occasions during his going-away speech, at one point imploring someone in the audience to "crack a joke" and scolding himself under his breath for crying. Dean Bresciani, the NDSU president, tried to help by patting Taylor on the shoulder.
"This place is a special place," Taylor said, taking off his glasses to wipe his eyes.
Taylor was been with NDSU for 13 years. Under his tenure, the Bison won three Football Championship Subdivision titles and twice advanced to the NCAA men's basketball tournament. NDSU's volleyball and softball teams have been regular participants in the Division I playoffs.
Two of Taylor's prominent coaching hires moved on to more profitable ventures this year. Craig Bohl, who last fall led the Bison to their third consecutive FCS crown, took a job at Wyoming. Men's basketball coach Saul Phillips went to Ohio. Another former NDSU men's basketball coach, Tim Miles, worked under Taylor for six years and is now at Nebraska.
David Richman, who is taking over the men's basketball program for Phillips, said Taylor always stood by his coaches even if they looked beyond NDSU.
"Anybody who is looking for the 'stepping stone' is always looking to get better. That means they are hungry. That means they have a desire to succeed," Richman said. "I think in anything in life you have big goals and big dreams and you're chasing those."
Prakash Matthew, who recently retired as NDSU's vice president for student affairs, will take over as interim athletic director until a replacement is named. Bresciani said it shouldn't take long.
"This is a plum job on a coast-to-coast basis and it will sell itself," Bresciani said. "This program will be just fine. We will get someone of Gene Taylor's caliber in here."
Taylor has managed tremendous growth in the athletics department since the school announced its plan to move to Division I athletics a dozen years ago. The athletic department had a budget of $5.6 million at the start of the transition. Now it's more than $17 million.
In addition, Taylor engineered a $41 million capital campaign for renovation of NDSU's basketball arena, administration offices, locker rooms and indoor track facility, along with a $3.5 million upgrade of football offices and locker rooms.
Taylor is taking over the newly created position of deputy director of athletics for the Hawkeyes.
"Gene Taylor is highly respected across the country and has been a leader in college athletics for more than a quarter of century," said Barta, Iowa's athletic director. "He shares the values of Iowa and will comfortably fit the Hawkeye culture."
Taylor came to Fargo after 15 years in various roles at Navy. He has worked in athletics administration for more than 28 years.