New athletic hires steer NAU in positive direction
NAU has tapped into the fountain of youth in an attempt to invigorate the athletic department.
The administration hired Lisa Campos to fill the Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics post and subsequently tapped Jack Murphy, a former assistant at Memphis who also had stops at UA and with the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, as the basketball coach. The announcement of each hire has, so far, provided some stability to an athletic department in need of change.
Murphy boasts an impressive resume, having served under three quality coaches in Lute Olson at UA, George Karl with the Nuggets and Josh Pastner at Memphis and appears ready to handle the grind of a Division 1 head coaching job. Campos’ qualifications are also substantial, as she spent her tenure at Texas-El Paso (UTEP) overseeing up to 14 different sports and had been UTEP’s associate athletic director from 2003 until she took the job in Flagstaff.
Both Campos and Murphy, under 35, bring a youthful energy that has already radiated through NAU in the short amount of time they have spent on campus and around Flagstaff. Their positive attitudes during Monday’s introductory news conferences, in which both spoke with charisma about reviving campus and community support for athletics, were refreshing and aiming to pique the interest in NAU athletics.
Granted, no new employee at any institution wants to say the wrong thing, and each new Lumberjack carefully navigated their speech while also trying to make a good first impression in front of a bevy of spectators that included reporters, photographers, administrators and Flagstaff citizens.
Credit has to be given to Parker Executive Search (PES), the two committees assigned to consult with PES and NAU President, John Haeger, who had to sign off on Campos and Murphy.
At the conference, Haeger said, “We have to do far more as a university to make the games much more exciting for the fans and young people [in] Flagstaff.”
That statement shows the athletic department, along with the higher-ups such as Haeger and the provost, are more willing to work together to achieve their goals than they have shown in the past and should be more forward with each other, a positive step forward if there ever was one. In the past, the general consensus was the athletic department was acting on its own accord with no real input from university officials and there was some distortion amongst the separate teams under the athletics banner.
Individually, Campos and Murphy have kicked off trends aimed to be more receptive to the community and athletes alike. Both stressed the need to be recognizable faces with the town and university, open to critical suggestions and listen to what the town, university and students have to say. Each has their own personal Twitter account — Murphy’s launched this past weekend — and both have already used that to their advantage, making contacts and acting accordingly with fans who want to see NAU athletics come back to prominence.
It is a small gesture, but a welcome one. Generally, coaches and those within the athletic department on this campus have been unwilling to divulge any personal details about their tenures. It is foolish to think Campos or Murphy will do that, but the fact that they are communicating with fans on a personal level is something different and refreshing.
Of course, Murphy and Campos are not the only new hires on campus. Getting lost in the shuffle amid the recent hubbub is new football offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, who was brought on days before spring practice started. Another young gun, Scangarello has already made a positive impression on the squad and its fans, who are anxious for, at a minimum, a winning record. Similar to Murphy and Campos, Scangarello has an impressive resume for a young football coach, and his work ethic is undeniable.
Finding something good to say about Lumberjack athletics as a whole has been difficult the past few years. There have been bright spots for a few teams, but as a group, the bar has been lowered considerably. Perhaps that is a good thing, though, because if Campos and Murphy, and to an extent Scangarello, excel in their positions, then their performances will look even more impressive. These three should be aware that if they do not return their respective areas back to success, the axe will come a’swinging.
Do we want that to happen? Of course not. We may be critical a considerable amount of the time, but that does not mean we do not wish the best for our school and those that represent the blue and gold. Getting Campos, Murphy and Scangarello on board is a smart move for both the athletic department and university. It is time for a change, and with NAU reaching a crossroads in athletics, now is the time to start anew.
Editor’s note: This editorial was written by Brett Murdock, Senior Sports Reporter, on behalf of the staff.