As we are about to begin the college football season, we could think of no better person to kick off our first episode than Josh Whitman, the Director of Athletics for the University of Illinois.
Josh was hired by the University of Illinois in 2016. He is a proud U of I alum and football player and has both his bachelor’s degree in Finance and law degree from Illinois. He has practiced law in DC, clerked for Judge Michael Kanne in U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, and played pro football. He started his collegiate athletic administration career also at Illinois, before he moved onto the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and eventually to Washington University in St. Louis before returning to his alma mater.
Some highlights from Bob Wallace’s discussion with Josh:
- On why he pursued a law degree after his NFL career and why it’s a strong resource to draw from as an athletic director:
“At the time, the law was just becoming more and more commonplace among major college athletic directors. it seemed to me that as the business evolves, as the complexities increase, as the risk magnified, that having that skill set would serve someone sitting in this chair well, and I’ve been pleased that I was right.”
- On the similarities between student athletes at Division 1 schools vs. a Division 3 schools:
“Whether you’re talking about UW La Crosse, Wash U or the University of Illinois, it doesn’t matter how many people are cheering them when the lights go on. They’re still 18 to 22-years-old. They’re learning how to be adults. They’re dealing with family issues. They’re just struggling to learn about themselves and make good choices every day and put themselves in a position to be successful when their time in college is over.”
- On his vision for the Illinois athletic program:
“I want us to be the model athletic program across the country for a place that is able to pursue athletic, academic and personal excellence in equal pieces for all of its student athletes. I think our mission statement says it best: unify, develop, inspire, achieve.”