Ex-Cal volleyball star, 44, worked for the past 17 years in the athletics department at the University of San Diego.
While paying homage to Seattle University’s 125th anniversary, new athletic director Shaney Fink promised a bold vision and bright future for Redhawks sports teams.
“Looking big, reaching high is something that is really important to me and will be a really fun thing to be a part of here,” she told SU faculty and staff on Wednesday morning during an on-campus gathering.
“There seems to be a yearning,” Fink said. “The one thing I was told from every group that I was with is we know we’re right there and we can do this. We just need to take it the next step. And I love that.”
Fink, who spent the past 17 years as an administrator at the University of San Diego, was in her fifth year as the Toreros’ senior associate AD. She was considered a strong candidate for USD’s vacant athletic-director position before drawing interest from Seattle U’s search committee comprised of trustees, faculty and students.
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SU President Stephen Sundborg praised her work at San Diego, where she managed 17 Division I programs and 450 student-athletes. At SU, Fink assumes control of a department comprised of 18 programs and 300 student-athletes.
“When I met her and had a chance to talk to her, I said what I see in front of me is a winner,” Sundborg said. “I see a person whose values are our values and someone who is really, really ready for this next level of leadership in athletics.”
Fink drew loud cheers from the crowd when she said: “I really like to win.”
The 6-foot Southern California native was a four-year starter while playing volleyball at California. She was named to the Pac-10 All-Decade Team (1990s) and finished her collegiate career as a top-10 career leader at Cal in kills, assists and digs.
“We want to raise the national profile,” Fink said. “An easy way to do this is to win.”
Fink, 44, is the second female athletic director in the WAC, joining Carla Wilson at Missouri-Kansas City.
She replaces Bill Hogan, who spent 10 years as AD and led SU’s return to Division I membership in 2012 after a 32-year hiatus. He was named SU’s assistant vice president for athletics advancement July 1.
Shawn Farrell, who served as interim athletic director, will remain in charge until Fink assumes control Nov. 1.
She spoke optimistically about fulfilling long-discussed plans of building an on-campus arena at Seattle U for the men’s and women’s basketball teams. The Redhawks men play the majority of their home games at KeyArena.
“I don’t know what the timeline is, but building an arena is a possibility,” Fink said. “When you get the energy generated around the program then we can bring the resources together for it. We have the space on campus for it.”
In 2000, USD built the $17.5 million Jenny Craig Pavilion, which seats 5,100.
“There’s been a little traction on it (building an arena) and that’s something that she has experience with,” SU men’s basketball coach Cameron Dollar said.
Dollar also said Fink’s familiarity with the West Coast Conference could prove to be beneficial in the future. The Redhawks begin their fifth year as members of the Western Athletic Conference, but has been enamored with the WCC since their return to D-I competition.
“She’s a wonderful fit for us,” Dollar said. “As we continue to transition in the athletics department, it’s important for us to have a chief advocate that can go on campus and bridge the gap to let them know what’s really going on in our world and be able to communicate our challenges and successes.”
As much as she loves winning, Fink pushed back on the idea that her legacy at Seattle U will be determined by how many championships are won and facilities built during her tenure.
“The legacy is going to be with the alumni that are produced from this university and the leaders that are impacting the world,” she said. “Developing facilities and developing winning programs — that’s all going to be indicators of our success along the way.
“But our real success and hopefully my legacy will be the people coming through this place.”