- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 5, 2001

ANNAPOLIS Chet Gladchuk calls himself a man of faith. So as he pondered leaving his job as the University of Houston's athletic director for a similar position at Navy, he sought some kind of sign, an omen that would tell him the move was right.

In came one of his three daughters, who explained that she saw her best friend wearing a Navy shirt in Texas, of all places. Another daughter saw a girl at her high school in a shirt that read, "Navy: Let the Journey Begin." And he saw a Navy shirt while pumping gas. But none of those was the clincher.

"The one that really hit home, I was reading a history of the mascot," Gladchuk said yesterday at the academy's boathouse, where academy superintendent Vice Adm. John Ryan introduced him as the Navy's 28th athletic director. "I saw before World War II that the mascot was named Chester. Well, Chester's coming back to the Naval Academy."

Gladchuk replaces Jack Lengyel, who said in July he would retire effective Oct. 1 after 13 years at the school. Lengyel, however, essentially has stepped down. He is in the process of cleaning out his office in Ricketts Hall and did not attend the news conference. Kevin Sinnett will remain acting AD until Gladchuk's arrival, estimated in 2-to-3 weeks.

The terms of his contract were undisclosed, but the deal likely is similar to his deal at Houston, which would have paid him $220,795 plus a housing allowance this year, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Conference affiliation for the football team and a renovation of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium will be among Gladchuk's priorities in the next several years.

The hiring of Gladchuk, the former chairman of the Conference USA Football Athletic Directors, seems to point the Midshipmen in that direction considering his familiarity with the conference. But Navy, one of seven remaining independents in Division I-A, seems hesitant to follow in the footsteps of Army and join C-USA despite entreaties to do so. Ryan, in fact, mentioned the ACC and the Big East as possibilities and not C-USA in his introduction of Gladchuk.

"There's so many variables that go into [picking a conference]," Gladchuk said, adding that the school may wait on new TV contracts, a playoff for the title or conference restructuring before making any move. "Army felt that made sense for their reasons… . I just came in today, but I'll break it down with Admiral Ryan. I'm open-minded. I don't think the timetable is pressing."

The academy has begun the $40 million renovation of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, which was built in 1957. The capacity will remain at about 36,000, but the grass at the north end of the stadium will be converted into seats. Gladchuk's ability to fund-raise he oversaw a renovation of Houston's Robertson Stadium that brought football back to campus was one of the reasons he was given the job.

Gladchuk's hiring also could spell doom for Navy football coach Charlie Weatherbie, in his seventh season in Annapolis. The Mids finished 1-10 last year and lost 45-26 to Temple in their season-opener this season. Gladchuk fired Houston coach Kim Helton after the Cougars finished 7-4 in 1999.

Gladchuk became Houston's AD in 1997. In his four-plus years there, he brought two prominent alumni back as coaches Clyde Drexler, whose stint as men's basketball coach was widely regarded as a disaster, and track and field coach Leroy Burrell, the former world record holder in the 100 meters. He also oversaw renovations to the track and field and softball complexes.

Before that, Gladchuk served as AD of his alma mater, Boston College, from 1990 to 1997, a stint marred by a gambling scandal that involved the football team. He also was Tulane's AD from 1987 to 1990, overseeing the Green Wave's reinstatement to Division I in men's basketball.

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