CHARLOTTESVILLE, AUG. 1 -- Jim Copeland, a native of Charlottesville and a former football player at the University of Virginia, will return home to become the university's athletic director.

At a University Hall press conference today, Copeland said he will leave his current position as athletic director at the University of Utah to accept a five-year contract with Virginia. No other terms were announced.

Copeland stressed the importance of gaining "badly needed" competitive edges, said he hoped to improve recruiting and said raising money and improving facilities also will be among his top priorities. He cited an indoor practice facility with a track as one of the improvements needed.

Copeland, 42, will replace Dick Schultz, who will become executive director of the National Collegiate Athletic Association on Sept. 1. Copeland played football at Virginia from 1963 until 1967, and, after eight seasons on the Cleveland Browns' offensive line, returned to Virginia in 1974 as a fundraiser for the athletic department.

"In the back of my mind, I thought, 'Boy, it'd be great if I could be the athletic director at Virginia,' " he said. "But Susie {his wife} and I knew the chances we would come back to Charlottesville to live -- and certainly to be the athletic director -- were small, indeed."

University President Robert O'Neil said he chose Copeland based on the recommendation of a selection committee. "Jim Copeland is very simply the best person for the job," O'Neil said. "The fact that he is also one of our own -- a person quite familiar with the university's athletic standards, traditions and values -- makes that choice an exceptionally happy one."

The announcement ended a selection process that began with Copeland's name on a list as one of the top candidates. By earlier this week, it was reported Copeland and Northwestern Athletic Director Doug Single were the two final candidates. On Thursday, Single announced his resignation at Northwestern, saying he is primarily considering positions in non-athletics fields.

Copeland, who says he kept in touch with Virginia sports through his parents, who still live here, met with the selection committee last weekend. He was formally offered the job by O'Neil on Thursday.

"I questioned if things could be done that should be done," Copeland said. "I did not want to come in here and merely maintain a program."

"Without being crass, dollars are a direct relation to success," Copeland said, adding that he plans to look at fundraising as a means to help improve facilities and recruiting. A $50 million campaign has been proposed to improve Virginia athletics.