Morgan State University hired alumnus David Thomas as athletic director yesterday, ending a period of eight months without an official department head.
Thomas, 54, had been athletic director at Bowie State, a Division II school in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
"I left Morgan State nearly 20 years ago with the hope of some day returning," said Thomas, a City College graduate who earned undergraduate and master's degrees from Morgan State in 1972 and 1979. "Now that the opportunity has presented itself, I'm elated about the chance to return and look forward to getting started."
Thomas will take over May 1. He replaces Garnett Purnell, who left last July to direct the athletic program at Division III Wittenberg College in Ohio. Morgan State took eight months to fill its post, though it interviewed Thomas not long after Purnell left and had a list of three in January.
"I can only say it's a process," said Tanya Rush, vice president for student affairs. She said other hirings took priority. "We're just glad that we're moving on. We've had challenges, but we've had a good year."
Rush had filled in as acting athletic director, stewarding the program through the retention of interim coaches Stanley Mitchell in football and Gerard Garlic in women's basketball.
This will be Thomas' third athletic director post. He directed a Division III program at SUNY-Old Westbury for two years, moved to Cal State-Los Angeles as associate AD from 1989 to 1998, then spent two years at Bowie State.
"He had great expertise in internal management, and I thought he would advance us as far as compliance," Cal State-Los Angeles AD Carol Dunn said. "He did a marvelous job here, and if there's anything I know, it's his great love and passion for Morgan State -- he was really devoted to that university."
Thomas said his main achievement at Bowie State was in setting policies and procedures in areas such as sports medicine, eligibility and grants-in-aid.
"The main thing I set out to do was to put together an organization that has some semblance of an infrastructure," he said. "There were fundamental concerns that needed to be addressed."
While the Bears' football program is in the midst of a one-year probation for secondary NCAA violations, Thomas hasn't been hired to conduct a cleanup.
Instead, he enters a better situation than his predecessor, with a renovated basketball facility and a football stadium renovation scheduled for completion by the end of next year.
Thomas credited Purnell for getting most of Morgan State's compliance concerns in order, and sees his main charge as strengthening the school's fund-raising and marketing.
"My job is to build on that," he said. "Relative to Morgan State's potential, what can be improved is potential in terms of dollars and cents."