Smatresk to depart UNLV, panting after his job to begin immediately

"UNLV President Neal Smatresk will stay on at the university"

That was the headline in June when Smatresk signed a new four-year deal. Or was it four months?

Today comes the news, first broken by the RJ's Steve Sebelius on Tuesday, that Smatresk is returning to Texas, assuming he is ratified by that state's regents next month as the president of North Texas.

The why is simple: He has family there, wants to be closer to the kids and grandkids and his wife wanted him to leave, a knowledgeable source tells me. Smatresk worked in the Texas higher ed system 30 years ago, so none of this is surprising.

Although some may question the timing -- North Texas started its search in March and Smatresk signed that lucrative $1.6 million deal for four years here just two months later -- he generally is well liked and has had to steer a university consistently shorted by the state during a recession. But let's put aside his legacy for now.

What next?

Here's what I understand from the inside:

The Texas regents, barring something unforeseen, will approve his hiring Dec. 12. Some goofy law forces them to wait 21 days.

Smatresk likely will leave early next year, at which time the regents will appoint an acting president who will agree to stay on until a permanent replacement is found. If Provost John White wants the job, he probably won't be the temp and will have to apply.

A national search seems inevitable, although this is Las Vegas, where some prominent folks might want the presidency as a career capstone (See Guinn, Kenny.)

But it may be more likely that some high-profile figure would agree to take the job while the six to nine month search goes on. Possible names to be floated: Former law school Dean Dick Morgan, banker Ken Ladd and ex-Sen. Richard Bryan.

A replacement probably won't be on board until the fall, unless, of course, some bigfoot "acting president" wants to be the permanent choice, and the regents agree.

(Attached here are Smatresk's farewell letter and the UNT news release.)