Sports, WVU Sports

WVU hires North Texas AD Wren Baker

UPDATE 2:10 p.m.

WVU has officially announced the hiring of North Texas athletic director Wren Baker. Baker’s title at WVU will be vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics.

“I am incredibly grateful to President Gee, Rob Alsop, the search committee and Board of Governors for the opportunity to serve as vice president and director of athletics at West Virginia University,” Baker said in a statement. “WVU boasts a powerful brand reputation and a storied academic and athletic history. My family and I can’t wait to get to Morgantown to build relationships and help take Mountaineer Athletics to even greater heights.”

Baker will begin his duties on Dec. 19 under a six-year agreement through 2028. He will earn a yearly salary of $1.1 million plus incentives. Baker’s last known salary at North Texas was $800,000.

“I am thrilled to welcome Wren Baker to the West Virginia University family as our new athletic director and I have no doubt his personality and energy will connect with our student-athletes and coaches, as well as our campus community and alumni,” Gee said. “When we began this search, we were determined to find someone who could lead in the modern realities of intercollegiate athletics and build on the legacy of his predecessors.

“We wanted someone who clearly understood the dynamics of a fast-changing athletics environment and had found success being at the forefront of this new world that includes managing NIL and the (transfer) portal. We looked at a number of well-qualified candidates and, at the end of the day, Wren met every one of our needs.”

Original Story

MORGANTOWN — WVU is expected to name Wren Baker as its next athletic director, according to reports by Pete Thamel of ESPN and Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated.

Baker, 44, is the current AD at North Texas, where he has served since 2016. Prior to UNT, Baker had stints as the interim and deputy AD at Missouri and deputy AD at Memphis.

Wren replaces former athletic director Shane Lyons, who was fired two weeks ago on Nov. 14. The Oklahoma State grad’s first-and-foremost job with the Mountaineers will be evaluating the WVU football program and deciding on the future of fourth-year head coach Neal Brown.

At the time of Lyons’ firing, both university president Gordon Gee and interim AD Rob Alsop said the decision on Brown’s future will be left to the new AD, who is now expected to be Baker.

“The evaluation of the football program will be the first task of our new athletic director and no changes will be made until that review has been completed,” Gee said in a statement at the time.

Despite grumblings from the fan base, Brown’s future at WVU is far from certain. Both the cost and timing of a potential Brown dismissal would be problematic for WVU. If fired in the near future, Brown is owed a buyout of approximately $16.7 million. In addition, any new coaching hire to replace Brown would be put well behind the eight-ball for the 2023 season as the NCAA transfer portal is set to open next week and the early signing period for football is less than a month away.

Several teams at North Texas have flourished Under Baker, including the football program. The Mean Green have made six bowl games in the last seven years and three conference championship game appearances, including this season, as they will play UTSA Friday for the Conference USA Championship. However, Baker did not hire UNT head coach Seth Littrell, who predates him at the University by a few months.

Baker did hire UNT men’s basketball coach Grant McCasland in 2017, who has since become the program’s all-time wins leader, as well as guiding the team to its first-ever NCAA Tournament victory. Overall, Baker has led 16 head coaching searches during his career. 

Baker has proved to be a strong fundraiser and promoter. During his tenure at UNT, the university registered its four best fundraising years in history and received 12 of its 20 largest gifts in department history. Also under Baker, UNT ticket revenue increased by 125%, football attendance increased by 71% and men’s and women’s basketball attendance both grew by more than 60%.

Baker is a native of Valliant, Okla. He graduated with a degree in education from Southeastern Oklahoma State in 2001 and then a master’s degree in education leadership from Oklahoma State in 2003. Baker’s early jobs included public school principal, Division-II men’s basketball coach and Division-II athletic director, before landing his first Division-I job as deputy AD at Memphis in 2013. He moved on to a similar role at Missouri in 2015, where he also served as interim AD for a time.

Baker and his wife Heather have two daughters, Addisyn and Reagan.
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