Q&A: WSU's new Athletic Director Anne McCoy talks about her goals after a tumultuous year for college athletics

click to enlarge Q&A: WSU's new Athletic Director Anne McCoy talks about her goals after a tumultuous year for college athletics
Shelly Hanks photo courtesy of Washington State University
Anne McCoy is the new athletic director at Washington State University.

The past year has been a tumultuous time for college athletics in Washington. The most visible manifestation of that was the crumbling of the Pac-12 conference, where only Washington State University and Oregon State University remain.

That instability was compounded by shake-ups in athletic department leadership, which saw former University of Washington Athletic Director Troy Dannen resign, and former WSU Athletic Director Pat Chun leave his post to take Dannen's spot.

Soon after Chun left, Anne McCoy was named the interim director of athletics for WSU. She previously served as the senior deputy director of athletics and has worked a handful of jobs within WSU athletics over the last 23 years.

The Inlander caught up with McCoy soon after she was officially named WSU's athletic director to talk about how she hopes to stabilize the college's athletics program, what it means to be the first woman to hold the position, and a potential Gonzaga University rivalry after WSU joined the West Coast Conference for many of its sports. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

INLANDER: One of your top priorities is to bring stability and positivity for staff, athletes and fans alike. What plans do you have to improve that in the immediate future and long term?

McCOY: I think one of the things I tried to start with our staff and student athletes is a lot of open communication. I don't beat around the bush, because I think people deserve that openness. We started right away with having more open communication and making sure people felt like they were important and valued regardless of the role they play in our department.

I think going forward, our goal is to find out what people have really enjoyed or what's been missing. It's just a chance to look in and reflect on what the department looks like. It's a different place than it was when I started here 23 years ago.

Are there any other goals or priorities that are important to you as you step into the permanent role?

I think we're always mindful of our budget and finances and fan experience. It's been a long year for everybody, so we're finding a way that we can help encourage people to be engaged and come to games or tune in to TV. As small as those things seem, they're really important to us right now.

I know it's a complicated situation, but with WSU and OSU controlling the Pac-12 and that pot of money, I'm wondering if there's anything promising about the current situation that makes you excited to move forward?

With all the changes in college athletics, we're looking at it as an opportunity. What does the Pac-12 conference look like, what will the network be like ... I think we'd be selling ourselves short not to look at this as a positive. We've been in the same conference for 100 years — it truly is something that none of us could have seen coming.

Now that WSU will be participating in the West Coast Conference, that reopens a WSU-Gonzaga rivalry that hasn't been seen in a long time. What do you think reigniting that rivalry will mean for the Inland Northwest sports scene?

It's truly great for our fans, especially since we're just down the road from each other. It's really great for the fans to have some high quality competition on the West Coast.

So far it's been amazing. All of us in many ways are colleagues with each other and have been playing as nonconference rivals, so it's going to be cool to give fans and students a new experience for where they can play.

In all of the program's history, you're the first woman to lead WSU's athletics department. What's going through your head, especially as you traverse a landscape where Title IX has had so much impact?

I feel like first and foremost, I'm so grateful to have a lot of my hard work recognized. As a woman who was given an opportunity for the first time in WSU history, this can be impactful for others to see.

I've had a lot of great colleagues, men and women, who have really been a role model for me. Those relationships really defined who I became as a professional, so if I can help forge that path for others, I would be so thrilled about that.

Looking to the future, do you have an idea what WSU Athletics will look like in the next five years?

I have no doubt that WSU will continue to compete at a high level, and I don't anticipate anything will change relative to the things I can control. [WSU is] a great place for college athletes and in five years, it will continue to be a great place.

On a more personal note, what kind of legacy do you hope to leave behind?

I hope the legacy that I leave is part of what led me to this position, which is truly selfless leadership. That's kind of how I live my life, professionally or personally, and I would hope it's an example for whoever succeeds me. ♦

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Colton Rasanen

Colton Rasanen is a staff writer for the Inlander covering education, LGBTQ+ affairs, and most recently, arts and culture. He joined the staff in 2023 after working as the managing editor of the Wahpeton Daily News and News Monitor in rural North Dakota.