Lynn Hickey named EWU athletic director

Lynn Hickey during a University of Texas at San Antonio press conference in 2016. Hickey, who left UTSA in 2017, was hired as EWUs new athletic director on April 25 | Photo courtesy of San Antonio Express-News

Lynn Hickey during a University of Texas at San Antonio press conference in 2016. Hickey, who left UTSA in 2017, was hired as EWU’s new athletic director on April 25 | Photo courtesy of San Antonio Express-News

By Taylor Newquist, Reporter

Lynn Hickey has been named EWU’s permanent athletic director, the university announced on Wednesday. The decision came after Hickey and Vince Otoupal presented their case to search committee members at open forums last week in Spokane.  

“Lynn Hickey emerged as the ideal candidate to fill this important role at Eastern,” EWU President Mary Cullinan said in a news release. “During her time on campus she has also displayed excellent leadership skills and a vision for how to transform our athletics department into a model program.”

Hickey has served as EWU’s interim athletic director since Feb. 12, and was previously the athletic director at the University of Texas at San Antonio. In her tenure at UTSA she added football, women’s soccer and golf programs to the university.

“I am truly honored and excited to lead Eastern’s Athletics Department into the future,” Hickey said in the release. “I want to continue the work I’ve started toward solidifying a diverse athletics department that is committed to academic achievement and competitive excellence.”

Hickey won over the search committee with her presentation on April 19, where she started with what drew her to stay at EWU.

“Quite honestly when President Cullinan called me in I thought this was a position that would help me stay in the business and navigate to my next position,” said Hickey. “After being here two weeks this place kinda grabbed my heart. I just really felt comfortable with the fit I offer, but also [feel] very excited about the future.”

She highlighted her previous experience at UTSA as a time when the administration was proud of itself for doing more with less, and equated it to the current situation with EWU.

“You get to a certain level and it’s hard for people to keep going,” said Hickey. “I think the commitment now is to have a bigger vision, to set higher expectations and to put the resources in place so that we take our place as leaders in this conference.”

Hickey emphasized building the brand of EWU athletics to make the school a more accessible and attractive destination to incoming students.

“Due to the visibility of athletics and due to our American culture, this sports stuff has been put on a high pedestal and probably overemphasized,” said Hickey. “But it is a piece of our campus culture that if we utilize it well, if we can invest in it appropriately, and if you’re successful, it can have a tremendous impact on the campus. It can open doors to other things on campus as far as donations, giving and visibility.”

Hickey believes that athletics on a campus need to do three things for the university: provide fun and enjoyable entertainment, recruit students and staff and engage the community.   

“With the community of Cheney, we need to be their little darlins’,” said Hickey. “We need to have every elementary kid, every middle school kid, the high school should be there, so that our brand overtakes that town. Then hopefully we can start to do the same thing in Spokane.”

As part of building the Eagle brand, Hickey referred to common hand signals and traditions top athletic departments share with their fans to build loyalty in the community. She also urged EWU fans to ask shops in Spokane for more Eastern apparel to be sold, and cited the football team as a way to sell fandom to people living in Spokane.

One of the biggest problems Hickey currently sees on the EWU campus is the lack of athletic infrastructure. She said that the student athlete experience should be the driving force behind investing in new facilities because of the amount of time they spend there.

“We have some big facility issues,” said Hickey. “They are very visible and we need to answer those. Right now, at Eastern we’re a little short changed, so we’ve got to find a way to address all that infrastructure and give them the experience that they need to have.”

Hickey also noted that she would like to see the operation budget go up $4-5 million.