Winston-Salem State is back to square one in its search for a permanent athletics director.
John Lewis, who was one of the three finalists for the job, said Thursday morning he received a courtesy call from Letita Wall, who works in Academic Affairs for WSSU and is the search committee chair.
“(Wall) let me know that they didn’t select any of us finalists,” said Lewis, who is the athletics director at Bluefield State College in West Virginia.
The other two finalists who were also on campus for interviews were Dr. Paula Jackson, who is an assistant athletics director at Hampton, and Enzley Mitchell, who is the department chair for sports management at Bethel College.
Dr. Elwood Robinson, the chancellor at WSSU, sent a letter Thursday morning to alumni about the decision. In the letter he said the next athletics director will be in place by Dec. 31.
“I do not believe we have found an individual who is a perfect fit for this role,” Robinson said in the letter. “The position of Athletic Director is a critical one for Winston-Salem State University. The individual in this position is responsible for a complex operation with 11 programs, more than 40 coaches and support staff, and approximately 275 student-athletes.
“It is vital that this position is filled by a strategic leader who can motivate and inspire.”
George Knox has been the interim athletics director since July of 2018. He replaced Tonia Walker, who resigned in May of 2018 with two years left on her contract. At the time, Walker, who had been at WSSU since 2000, said it was time to move on. She was recently hired by Bluefield College in Virginia as athletics director.
Robinson said in his letter that the whole process will begin again and another search committee will be formed.
As part of the interview process all three of the finalists for the athletics director position were allowed to speak in late April at an open forum, and they also answered questions. Lewis said he liked that WSSU was open about the process.
“It was a good setup and I could tell the fans and alumni are very passionate about athletics,” Lewis said. “It was good and I loved that the public was part of it and we all could kind of share our vision a little bit during the interviews.”
Among the applicants who weren’t among the three final candidates were Kermit Blount, Sonya Hurt and Kevin Ritsche.
Blount is the head football coach at Johnson C. Smith and was a record-setting quarterback and former head coach for WSSU. Hurt graduated from WSSU in 1990, earned her master’s degree from Grambling University in 1996 and is an academic coordinator at Rider University in New Jersey. Ritsche is the outgoing baseball coach after nine years with the WSSU program. The 2019 season was the last for the WSSU baseball program, which is being disbanded for financial reasons.
Tim Grant, a former WSSU basketball player and assistant coach under the late Big House Gaines, said Thursday he’s not a candidate.
Knox, who is a 1999 WSSU graduate, said Thursday he’s not sure if he will apply for the job this time around. He said he’ll continue to be the interim athletics director for as long as it takes.
“I love WSSU and I want what is best for this school,” Knox said. “I’ve learned in athletics that it’s about taking care of things on a daily basis and making sure things are done right.”
A coach at WSSU said Knox has done a good job in running athletics from a financial standpoint.
“I know that the entire program was under budget and that’s not easy to do,” the coach said.
Robinson said in his letter Knox will continue as the interim athletics director.