Western Carolina Chancellor Kelli Brown has appointed a 15-member search committee that will help select the university’s next athletic director

Brown also announced that Collegiate Sports Associates, a North Carolina-based executive search consulting firm, has been hired to assist the committee in its work. The firm was founded by Todd Turner, who has more than 35 years of experience in intercollegiate athletics administration.

Turner’s career includes serving as AD at Connecticut, N.C. State, Vanderbilt and the University of Washington.

Turner and his firm also assisted in the search for WCU’s last athletic director, Randy Eaton. Brown dismissed Eaton, who had been AD since December 2011, from his position earlier this month.

Ivy Gibson, associate general counsel at WCU, is chairing the search committee, which includes current and former student-athletes, Catamount Club representatives, athletic department staff and members of the public with experience in college athletics. All are strong supporters of Catamount athletics, Brown said in announcing the committee Dec. 18.

“I think it is important to quickly appoint this search committee and charge the group to begin its work right after the first of the new year toward a goal of having a new director of athletics in place by the end of February,” Brown said. “I also think it is vital that this committee be made up of folks who understand the world of intercollegiate athletics and who appreciate the value that it adds to an institution.”

The process will include opportunities for other supporters of Catamount athletics to offer input, Brown said.

The search for the university’s next director of athletics comes after the WCU Board of Trustees earlier this year asked the athletic department to create a master plan to guide the renovation and construction of athletic facilities.

“I am using this document to develop a plan that is driven by philanthropy and student support to upgrade our athletics facilities,” Brown said. “I am committed to excellence within the athletics department by ensuring that our student-athletes graduate, that we continue to be strong in our philanthropy and that our teams are competitive within the Southern Conference.”

Member of the athletics director search committee, in addition to Gibson, are:

• John Brannon, a senior member of the football team.

• Dan Brooks, retired assistant football coach who was part of national championship teams at Tennessee and Clemson. A member of the Catamount Club Board of Directors, Brooks is a 1976 WCU graduate and former football player.

• Joe Crocker, director of local impact for Forsyth County for the Kate Reynolds Charitable Trust. A former member of the WCU Board of Trustees and board chair from 2001 until 2003, Crocker is a 1974 WCU graduate and was a member of the tennis team.

• Karen Glover, WCU head volleyball coach since 2011 and two-time Southern Conference Coach of the Year.

• Malea Habbal, vice president and president-elect of the Catamount Club Board of Directors. She is a 2007 WCU graduate and was a member of the golf team.

• Stacey Miller, WCU associate athletic director for academic success and senior women’s administrator. Miller’s husband, Chad Miller, is WCU’s soccer coach.

• Ben Pendry, WCU director of advancement services. He is a 2007 WCU graduate.

• Jake Robinson, chief executive officer of Champion Credit Union, based in Canton. A member of the Catamount Club Board of Directors, Robinson is a 2010 graduate of and was a basketball player at WCU.

• Kevin Stanberry, vice president of Stanberry Insurance, based in Sylva. A member of the Catamount Club Board of Directors, he is a 1994 WCU graduate.

• Kate Swartwout, a senior member of the soccer team.

• David Tyler, WCU associate professor of sport management and chair of the Faculty Senate’s University Athletics Committee.

• Mike Wade, president of Rabbit Ridge Properties. A two-time Academic All-American while a football player, Wade is a 1977 WCU graduate.

• Melissa Wargo, WCU’s chief of staff since June 2013. She has been with the university since 2006.

• Jim Wood, retired banking executive with Wells Fargo. Currently serving as president of the Catamount Club, Wood is a 1983 WCU graduate.

Until a permanent athletic director is named, athletics staff is reporting to Mike Byers, WCU’s vice chancellor of administration and finance.

The search committee will hold its first meeting Jan. 6.