University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce (left) introduces new UW Athletic Director Troy Dannen during a news conference Tuesday in Seattle. (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times via AP)

University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce (left) introduces new UW Athletic Director Troy Dannen during a news conference Tuesday in Seattle. (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times via AP)

Dannen jumps on rare opportunity to take over as AD at Washington

The former Tulane athletic director will lead the Huskies as they transition to the Big Ten next year.

By Tim Booth / Associated Press

SEATTLE — Troy Dannen was happy in New Orleans. The athletic program he took over at Tulane in 2015 was thriving, especially a football program still basking in what was accomplished last season.

But when the job as athletic director at Washington came open in August and Dannen became identified in the search process, the thought of making a career-defining move entered his mind.

“I then I went through six weeks of nerves about whether I could actually get the job or not,” Dannen said Tuesday.

Dannen did get the job, taking over at Washington at a time with major changes on the horizon for the university. Dannen replaced Jen Cohen, who left in August to take the top position in the athletic department at Southern California.

Cohen was the one in charge of Washington athletics when the Huskies announced they, along with Oregon, were leaving for the Big Ten helping lead to the collapse of the Pac-12.

It will be Dannen taking the Huskies into the Big Ten at a time when Washington is thriving in football but is facing questions in men’s basketball, there’s a department deficit of nearly $8 million in the next fiscal year and there will be a major jump in the debt services paid on the Husky Stadium renovation in the coming years.

“I think the move to the Big Ten gives us hope for stability and vitality and while that full per diem, if you will, in the Big Ten may be a little ways out, the future is bright,” Dannen said.

The Iowa native arrived at Tulane eight years ago after a stint as the athletic director at Northern Iowa. He has served on various NCAA committees in recent years, including the Division I Transformation Committee and the Football Oversight Committee.

During his time at Tulane, Dannen hired football coach Willie Fritz and helped turn the Green Wave into one of the strongest Group of Five programs in the country in the American Athletic Conference.

For his first introduction at Washington, Dannen seemed to win over the audience in his new environment.

He made note of the rowing shell from the 1936 Olympics — “The Boys in the Boat” shell — hanging above the podium in the room where his introduction was held. He shared the story of becoming a Seattle SuperSonics fan in Iowa because “Downtown” Freddie Brown played for the Sonics and played collegiately at Iowa.

But Dannen was also forthright on at least one topic. When asked about the future of the football rivalry with Washington State, Dannen noted the importance of playing seven home football games each season as part of the business model for Washington’s finances.

With the Huskies playing nine conference games as part of their move to the Big Ten, it seemed a pretty clear indication by Dannen that the Apple Cup may not be able to continue in its current structure.

“My bias is I don’t want to lose history and the traditions. I also know that I have this economic model, particularly as we move to the Big Ten where we’re playing with people that frankly have an economic model that is, I don’t want to say far superior, but far greater than ours,” Dannen said. “We have to be really careful and seven home games is a piece of the economic model going forward that UW has to have.”

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