Dickson Cites Family First In Move

From Grand Avenue to Bourbon Street.

There might not be two roads in America more diverse than Pullman's main drag and the raucous core of New Orleans' French Quarter.

But Rick Dickson has decided that as much as he has enjoyed the family-first lifestyle symbolized by Grand during his six years as Washington State's athletic director, he could not resist one of the items included in Tulane University's bag of financial lures to the Big Easy.

The result: About March 1, Dickson will leave WSU for what appears to be a lateral move professionally - from the struggle of competing in the Pacific-10 Conference to a struggle competing in Conference USA. From the comfort of the Palouse to the fringe of New Orleans.

Why? Surprisingly, the move is all about family, Dickson said yesterday in describing a fringe benefit offered by Tulane that no rational father of four children 40 months apart could turn down.

"The key is that by agreeing to do this I've just assured my four children's college education," Dickson said. "And that's very important to my wife, Brenda, and I."

Dickson said his children now have the opportunity to attend any one of 100 universities tuition-free because Tulane is part of a consortium of schools involved in this fringe benefit for many of their employees.

Dickson said the group of schools includes Duke, Wake Forest and Pepperdine."

"That was the key," Dickson said.

And with his children approaching college age - Kari is 17, the twins, Kasi and Kelli, are 15 and Doug is 13 - the key to the financial demands of college is beginning to turn.

As for the Tulane job, Dickson described a situation not unlike the one he faced when he came to WSU.

"They seem to be fairly competitive in their programs but upgrading their funding - fund raising, marketing, promotions, sponsorship, ticket sales - is a direct concern," Dickson said of the Green Wave.

Fund raising for the purpose of upgrading facilities is the legacy Dickson likely will leave behind at WSU, where a new weight room is complete, the remodeling of Bohler Gym is ongoing and funding for an indoor practice facility is in progress.

He said that because he wants to help his most recent hires - basketball coaches Paul Graham and Jenny Przekwas - get off to a good start and because donations for the indoor facility are about $5 million shy of a $15 million target, he is planning to stay on at WSU until March.

Competitively, the Cougars have struggled the past two years. Some Cougar fans have placed the blame on Dickson, for hiring a men's basketball coach he later accepted a resignation from, Kevin Eastman, and a baseball coach, Steve Farrington, who has failed to live up to his legendary predecessor, Bobo Brayton. The football team, which had a Rose Bowl season in 1997, has won one Pac-10 game the past two seasons combined.

"We achieved some things together," Dickson said. "We were able to do some things and put some things in place that will endure and last beyond a win and a loss."

It's not clear how Dickson's successor will be chosen. But a school official said the likely scenario will involve a selection committee chosen by WSU President Sam Smith, who is retiring in June. The committee will narrow a field of candidates for the benefit of Smith's successor.