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By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian
BY ZACH EWING Californian sports editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Cal State Bakersfield athletic director Jeff Konya announced Monday he will leave CSUB for the same position at Oakland (Mich.) University, leaving the Roadrunners searching for a leader for the second time in their Division I era.
Konya, who is from Michigan, will step down effective Aug. 4, CSUB announced.
"It's my home state, and they have a couple of things that are appealing for an athletic director," Konya told The Californian. "But in reality, it was the geography more than anything. It was a tough choice, and it's bittersweet."
CSUB said in a release that it would name an interim athletic director in the "coming days" and that it would conduct a national search for Konya's replacement.
"We appreciate the efforts Jeff has made in improving the quality of personnel and the attention given to academics for our student-athletes," said Dr. Thomas Wallace, vice president of student affairs, in a prepared statement. "We wish Jeff well as he begins his new position (at) Oakland University."
Wallace said CSUB's search committee would include members from the Bakersfield community at large.
Konya was hired at CSUB in November 2010, replacing Rudy Carvajal -- who had been the Roadrunners' athletic director since 1972, for all but about a year of the school's athletic history.
Still, in a short time, Konya has overseen a tumultuous and transformative era.
Most notably, he shepherded the Roadrunners into the Western Athletic Conference in 2012.
"The conference status was a major step for the entire department," CSUB baseball coach Bill Kernen said. "And some of the things he did promotionally and with marketing, it was crucial."
Konya also oversaw the final stages of construction of Hardt Field, including lights and extra seating; helped to create the ROWDY Awards to honor student-athletes; added a sand volleyball team; and hired coaches in numerous sports.
"He rooted for our student-athletes as if there was no tomorrow," men's basketball coach Rod Barnes said, "whether it was being at a soccer game or a baseball game, or following the men's and women's basketball teams. A lot of times you don't find people who would be that into every sport. He was for our student-athletes, he was for Bakersfield, and he was a sports guy."
Off the field, Konya met ambitious fundraising goals, including $600,000 for the past fiscal year, through his "New Gold Standard" marketing campaign.
"There's a lot of positives," Konya said. "We have tremendous coaches and staff, and the brand and the community are wonderful. ... The student-athletes got along really well and really relish the opportunity they have both academically and athletically. They made it a special place."
But ultimately, it was one Konya chose to leave. He was a finalist for the athletic director position at Cal State Northridge last year, only to remove his name from consideration when CSUB offered him a five-year contract extension.
Eighteen months later, he'll be in Michigan; Konya was born in Royal Oak, Mich., and grew up in West Bloomfield, Mich. In casual settings, he was often seen in Bakersfield wearing apparel of Detroit sports teams.
Konya wrote about the pull of his home state in open letter to CSUB fans.
"... I am grateful to be given such an opportunity at a progressive and emerging academic institution, and simultaneously ... return to the state I was born in and where I have had many family members and close friends reside."
Barnes said he'll anxiously await the new hire.
"Coaches are always concerned when there's a change in leadership, but I think any professional would be," Barnes said. "There's always uncertainty, but we've got great leadership, ... and as coaches, we just have to keep going and do our jobs."
Wallace said a permanent replacement might not be hired till the fall. Konya said that whoever it is will have some familiar challenges.
"I think that finances are an issue for every Division I athletic department," he said. "At CSUB, there needs to be an investment in athletic facilities to put us on par with our major competitors and our peers in Division I. That's probably where there needs to be a focus, and everyone seems to agree those were issues."
Konya won't be around to solve them, but he said he's left only because he had an opportunity he couldn't pass up.
"What each person is looking for in their employment and their ambition is up to them," he said. "For me, it really was about geography. I think CSUB is a great place; I think the people are fantastic. It's the people that make the places, so this is bittersweet for me."