After firing the former University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Athletic Director Mike Thomas, following scandals in the athletic department, the university has been having trouble with funding and making the athletic program successful.
Despite having financial issues though, the university officially hired Josh Whitman as the 14th Athletic Director of UIUC on February 18, 2016. The university and the committee firmly believe that he will embrace the program. In addition, the university announced they will pay him a starting salary of $600,000 with bonus opportunities. Josh Whitman, 37, is not only an alumnus, but also a four-year scholarship football athlete, and a former professional football player. Just by a glimpse of his neckwear at the press conference on Thursday, he is an Illini.
He earned his bachelors and his law degrees from UIUC and worked for a couple years in the athletic department. So, Josh knows about the program more than anyone else. He was successful in Division III at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri; Whitman’s team has won four national titles, 24 top-five team finishes, and 34 conference championships. But—let’s not forget that he won those titles at Division III. We are in the BIG Ten league, one of the top leagues in the nation.
I highly do respect our new Athletic Director, especially after watching and listening to him at the press conference. Whitman stated – “With strong leadership, a bold vision, daring integrity and an unparalleled commitment from a unified and active Illini Nation, together we can build an athletics program befitting our great institution. I will work tirelessly to achieve our goals. The future is bright for the Illini.”
The biggest challenge for Josh is not only going to be winning more trophies and championships, it’s going to be altering the athletic programs and most importantly, gaining more support from the fans. The most important question that everybody wants to know is whether he will be able to bring winnings to the fans despite his annual earnings of $600,000. Josh may have all the right credentials and experiences, but UIUC is very different from Washing Univ. St. Louis.
Josh will need to step up his game and be ready to hit those walls, because they are coming hard and they are coming fast. With much attention, we will watch his performance and the changes he will make for the athletic programs and for the Illini community. I will be coming back for him and evaluating his performance, hungry for more winnings.
Sam Lee / Intern Reporter