Letter to the Editor: A letter to Josh Whitman


Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photos

Josh Whitman played four seasons at Illinois and four in the NFL. He has a law degree from Illinois. Photo by Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photos

By Ron Colgan

Dear Mr. Whitman,

I am excited. By all accounts, your capabilities, desire and loyalty set you up to succeed in your new role of Director of Athletics. As for my background: I am an alumnus, I am an I Fund member, I am a season ticket holder and I want Illinois to win the right way, in the worst way.

Collectively, we ask you consider:
1. Do your homework. In business, I used an athletic director’s mentality in identifying team members. Search them out before the job is open, cultivate them and define in advance if they are interested, capable and affordable. It’s not rocket science, but it seems to have been an issue in recent history.
2. Build your fan base, at all levels. Certainly you know the process to cultivate the large donors. And recent history demonstrates the DIA attempted to help the number of fans who were looking for inexpensive tickets. But what was left out were those supporters in the middle. Those that give annually, attend games and remain loyal were largely ignored. Get to know them beyond an online survey. Find out what is important to them.
3. Capitalize on history. One notable basketball player noted to me he had not been involved in U of I athletics in recent years and was genuinely appreciative when I invited him to a football game and tailgate. Use these former Illini greats as ambassadors. Mike White used to tour the tailgates before games. Make the fans feel welcome and that you value their attendance.
4. Recognize there is more to the state than Chicago. Work hard to build the downstate fan base. Do not rely on the local Illini clubs alone. If it means putting someone on staff to be your local liaison, do it.

Thank you, good luck and GO ILLINI.
Ron Colgan
Class of 1981
Chillicothe, Illinois