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UND hires Bill Chaves of Eastern Washington as school's next athletic director

Eastern Washington Athletic Director Bill Chaves at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. Dave Wallis / Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS -- The University of North Dakota has hired Bill Chaves from Eastern Washington as the school's next athletic director.

The school has set a press conference for 11 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16, in Ralph Engelstad Arena to introduce Chaves.

Chaves signed a four-year contract worth $200,000 per year Saturday, Jan. 13.

Chaves interviewed for the job Wednesday, Jan. 10, and Thursday, Jan. 11. UND President Mark Kennedy offered him the job Friday, Jan. 12, and he officially accepted Saturday morning.

Chaves, 51, has been the athletic director at Eastern Washington since 2007. He will start at UND on March 1.

“I’m feeling very good,” Kennedy said. “He’s been an athletic director of the year nationally a couple of times. He’s achieved a national championship in FCS football and been to the playoffs several times. He’s brought a couple teams to the NCAA in men’s basketball.

“He’s had success with building a coaching team that attracts wonderful athletes with a whole range of sports.”

Chaves will take over for Brian Faison, who announced his intention to retire in October. Faison will remain on as a special advisor to athletes through June 30.

Roughly 50 people applied for the athletic director position according to UND spokesperson Peter Johnson. A 15-person committee narrowed the field down to 12 for video interviews, then picked four to bring on campus.

The other finalists were Western Michigan senior associate athletic director Monty Porter, UND Champions Club executive director Mike Mannausau and Texas-San Antonio deputy athletic director Kellie Elliott.

Kennedy had in-person meetings with all four finalists and received feedback -- both face-to-face and through an electronic system set up for stakeholders. He said that UND had “four great finalists,” but Chaves “topped the list when you totaled it all up.”

Chaves is familiar with UND’s athletic program because Eastern Washington also plays in the Big Sky Conference.

The Eastern Washington football program won the national championship in 2010 -- something that excites UND football coach Bubba Schweigert.

“Since he’s been there, they’ve been really successful in football,” Schweigert said. “I’m sure he understands what it takes to be a successful football program at the FCS level. We hope he can come here and help us and challenge us to get to that level.”

Chaves also has hockey in his background.

He’s had stints at Quinnipiac, UMass and Northeastern, which all have Division I hockey programs, and his son plays the sport. Chaves frequently attends Spokane Chiefs games. The Chiefs play in the Western Hockey League.

“I think you need to know and love hockey to be able to effectively lead an athletics department at UND,” Kennedy said. “He’s been at three athletic programs that have had hockey. His son plays hockey. We’re looking forward to him immersing himself into the hockey culture here. He’s well along the way knowing what it takes to succeed in hockey.”

Eastern Washington’s men’s basketball team reached the NCAA tournament in 2015.

“It’s a new change,” UND men’s basketball coach Brian Jones said. “I think he’s obviously really well prepared for this job, for the new opportunity. In his interview, he talked about the excitement in leading us into the Summit and Missouri Valley. Being an AD and doing the things he’s done at Eastern Washington, he built that program as a whole into something that’s very competitive. I’m excited for that.”

Kennedy also said he’s confident that Chaves will help UND in hitting fundraising goals.

At Eastern Washington, he led several fundraising initiatives, including a $1.1 million project for new videoboards at Roos Field and Reese Court and a $1.5 million locker room project.

Chaves also played a role in EWU installing the renowned red turf football field.

“When we did our interviews, that was one of the things we specifically talked about,” Kennedy said. “He’s had success fundraising at Eastern Washington. There are things on the plate. We had a long discussion about the High Performance Center Phase II. What does that look like? How big can we scale that? These are parts of the conversations I’ve had with him.”

Chaves, who grew up in Connecticut, has been married to his wife Liz for 23 years. They have a daughter, Erin (17), and two sons, Derek (14) and Kevin (12).

Kennedy said Chaves’ family will be moving to Grand Forks in the summer.

Chaves posted on Twitter that he’s withholding comment until Tuesday’s press conference, but expressed gratitude to Eastern Washington and the town of Cheney, Wash.

“After a decade of memories that I will carry for a lifetime, I have been offered and accepted the UND AD’s position,” he wrote. “I will reserve further comment until Tuesday’s PC, but please know my family and I owes a huge debt of gratitude to many in the EWU (Cheney/Spokane) community.”

Kennedy said Chaves was excited to go to a program with hockey in its department and that he believes the athletic director was energized by UND’s passionate fan base.

“As people get to know him,” Kennedy said, “people will get as excited as I am about what the future has to hold with UND athletics.”

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 13th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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