Dr. Terry Wanless, the longest-serving athletic director in Sacramento State history, announced Thursday that he will retire on June 30.
Wanless revealed the news during an emotional staff luncheon that included many of the coaches and staff members he has hired during his 12-year tenure at the school.
Wanless, 66, insisted his decision to step down has nothing do with the departure last month of football coach Marshall Sperbeck after an internal investigation of possible NCAA violations.
“Marshall and I are very good friends,” Wanless said. “But, no, it didn’t motivate me to make this choice, (nor was I) driven by that. Things happen in our business that are unsettling.
“It’s just time. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’ll be 67 next month. I’ve been here 12 years. I felt we had a great run, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, but I have six grandkids, and I want to be more a part of their lives.”
Deputy athletic director Bill Macriss will become the interim athletic director as the university develops a transition plan.
Wanless thinks Macriss would make an excellent successor.
“He’s been with me every step of the way,” Wanless said. “This would be an opportunity for him to showcase his skills and talent. He’s a bright guy. He’d do a great job.”
During Wanless’ tenure, Sac State has raised its athletic profile despite the challenges of competing as a lower-tier Division I program. The Hornets have won 56 conference championships and sent 32 teams and more than 200 individuals to NCAA postseason competition.
Sac State President Alexander Gonzalez praised Wanless and thanked him for his service.
“Our intercollegiate programs are competing at a higher level, with success that includes conference championships and victories in multiple sports against schools with much greater financial resources,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “Support from the local community has increased, and many of our facilities and services for student-athletes have improved. Student-athletes frequently have a higher GPA than our overall student body.”
Those facility changes include the resurfacing of the main and practice tracks; synthetic turf installation at Hornet Stadium; the renovation of the Athletics Center; and the building of the Broad Fieldhouse that houses the football, track and field and strength and conditioning programs.
Sac State athletics also recently posted its highest graduation rates in the Division I era.
Wanless said he is most proud of helping expand the number of fifth-year scholarships for athletes.
“We’ve had 136 out of 138 kids in that program complete their educations,” Wanless said. “By the nature of our level of competition, we don’t get athletes who are going to make a living playing professional sports. So it’s important for us to see that they get their degrees.”
Under Wanless, programs such as football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball have developed higher profiles.
“The main things I appreciate about Terry are that he gave me a chance to build a program and that he values education first,” said men’s basketball coach Brian Katz, entering his seventh season. “It’s not like we’ve won a million games, but that speaks to his patience. We’ve shown improvement, and we’ve graduated 17 out of 18 guys. He’s a little old-school, and that’s the way it should be.”
Wanless said he and his wife, Joanne, have built a house in Lexington, Ky., where they plan to move during the summer to be closer to their daughter, Heather, and her three children. Wanless’ son, Troy, who lives in Minneapolis, also has three children.
“We have a family history of being involved in athletics,” Wanless said. “I want to be able to attend my grandkids’ games on a more frequent basis.”
Before coming to Sac State, Wanless served as the athletic director at North Dakota, Western Carolina and Towson.
Though looking forward to some down time, Wanless hasn’t ruled out a return to athletic administration.
“You never want to say never,” Wanless said. “If I do anything, it would be locally in the Kentucky area. But I don’t have a great desire to be an athletic director again.”
Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.