Hansen to retire after 26 years as Pac-10 commissioner

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. -- The Pac-10's Tom Hansen, the longest-tenured Division-I conference commissioner in the country, will retire next summer after 26 years on the job.

"When I started there in the 1960s, it was the Pac-5, Pac-6, then Pac-8," Hansen said in a phone interview Monday. "Then, in 1978, the Arizonas came in. I've seen it grow so much."

Hansen will step down effective July 1, 2009. So far, Pac-10 teams have won 204 NCAA championships during his time running the league and he has seen the emergence of Pac-10 football and basketball in recent years -- including men's basketball being widely considered the strongest conference in the nation this past season.

"It has been a unique opportunity and an honor to be associated with the 10 outstanding institutions of higher education which comprise the Pac-10 Conference," Hansen said. "I want to thank them for the opportunity to be Pac-10 Commissioner."

The 70-year-old Hansen played a key role in the development of the Bowl Championship Series and greatly increased the exposure for his conference through improved television opportunities for football and basketball -- not to mention being part of the expansion for women's opportunities.

Women's teams in the conference have won eight championships this year already. He is as thrilled with the academic strides made by the Pac-10's student-athletes as he is the success on the field or court.

"Those two things fill me with a great sense of pride," Hansen said. "The addition and then the development of the women's programs is notable. And I'm very proud of my work in developing the BCS, which is a tremendous success for college football to strengthen the regular season and preserve the bowl season that is very important to many Division-I institutions in the NCAA. It has been a real positive development for college football."

Hansen is the second BCS commissioner to announce his retirement in the past week. Last Thursday, Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said he would move on from his role next summer.

"Tom Hansen has led the Pac-10 for 25 years, through a remarkable period of accomplishment, winning more national championships than any other conference, as well as developing many new programs," said Stanford president John Hennessey, chairman of the Pac-10 CEO Group. "We have been fortunate to have such a strong and capable commissioner."

Hansen becomes the second commissioner in the Bay Area to announce his retirement in recent months. Mike Gilleran of the West Coast Conference, based in nearby San Bruno, was the country's second-longest tenured commissioner behind Hansen and completed his 25th and final conference basketball tournament this spring before retiring May 31.

Hansen began working in the conference office in 1960, serving as director of public relations until 1967. He then spent 16 years working for the NCAA before returning to the Pac-10.

He met with the presidents of the Pac-10 schools during the conference meetings that ended Sunday in Long Beach and formally let them know of his decision.

"It wasn't like I suddenly stood up and made an announcement," Hansen said. "We confirmed it yesterday and started talking about a search process."