In a surprise move, Arizona State University yesterday named Charles Harris, athletic director the past six years at the University of Pennsylvania, to run its sports program. Among persons immediately mentioned as candidates to replace Harris at Penn was Steve Bilsky, director of men's athletics at George Washington University.
Bilsky is a former athlete and administrator at the Philadelphia school.
Bilsky, who came to GW from Penn 2 1/2 years ago, declined comment when asked whether he would be interested in the job. He has two years remaining on his contract with George Washington.
A source close to Bilsky said he had not had time to make any decisions. Another source said it was almost certain Penn would contact Bilsky, an all-Ivy League guard his junior and senior years on a basketball team that went 53-3 those two years.
Harris, 34, becomes the first black athletic director at a major Division I-A football school. He replaces Dick Tamburo, athletic director for five years who resigned shortly after it was revealed members of the Arizona State baseball team used Nardil, an antidepressant prescription drug, in an effort to enhance their performance.
J. Russell Nelson, Arizona State's president, said he hired Harris because of the success of Penn's athletic teams (the Quakers won nine Ivy League championships in 1983-84), because Harris brings "class and dignity" and because of his experience as an assistant athletic director at the University of Michigan.
Harris got his start in athletic administration at Hampton Institute, as a volunteer in the sports information office while pursuing an undergraduate degree. He worked in the sports information office at the University of Michigan while pursuing a master's degree in journalism there, and so impressed Athletic Director Don Canham that Harris was hired as an assistant athletic director in 1974.